When I think about the scenes in film that have left a searing imprint on my consciousness, I find myself always coming back to the wonderful Green Line bus stop scene in Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).
Here it is:
When I first saw it, my heart stopped beating. Even after subsequent endless viewings on YouTube, I still can’t get over this scene. If we strip back the cinematic elements, what we see is Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson), reuniting with his adopted sister Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), who we know Richie has a deep and unrealised affection for.
Anderson – the maestro that he is – utilises these cinematic elements to powerfully immerse us into the lovesick psyche of Richie Tenenbaum. He captures a perfect moment, using the wonderfully melancholy track “These Days” by Nico to provide as emotional anchor (I’m a sucker for good soundtracks). When we see Margot, time literally slows down for Richie Tenenbaum: and thus, for the audience. The resulting effect is utterly mesmerising.
The cherry-on-top is the beautiful husky narration (courtesy of Alec Baldwin), which provides us with details about the world which manage to be both specific and cryptic at the same time (“He had made a request for his usual escort – the one from his days on the circuit – to meet him by the pier by way of the green line bus“), as if from the perspective of a very keen historian. What Anderson grants us with on screen however, is a scene from within the consciousness of his characters. The with-holding of information in the narration alone further adds to the emotional wallop when it is revealed that his “usual escort” is indeed Margot Tenenbaum. A scene like this can only exist in cinema. Wes Anderson perfectly portrayed loneliness and longing in the space of ninety seconds.
Let’s watch it again: