It’s been a while since my last post, but I finally got around to watching Darjeeling Limited, a film directed by Wes Anderson and starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman.
The story follows the journey of three brothers Francis (Wilson), Jack (Schwartzman), and Peter (Brody), as they travel through India to spiritually discover themselves and to reconnect with each other. Following their father’s death, the three brothers hadn’t spoken to each other, a reflection on the lack of trust between the three of them. However, each is troubled in some way (Francis by his near-death motorcycle accident, Jack by his recent heartbreak at the hands of his ex-girlfriend, and Peter by his doubts regarding the longevity of his marriage.) Francis then organizes a trip to India, where he hopes the three brothers will learn to befriend each other again.
I’ve only seen two other Wes Anderson films in the past, The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom, but Darjeeling Limited follows Anderson’s typical style. I really enjoyed the way the movie was filmed, especially when the camera follows the characters movements, whether it be obvious movements like walking (camera’s direction of movement is parallel to the character’s direction of movement) or subtle movements, such as glancing eyes. Filming the characters as they walk, gives the feel of characters moving from one frame literally into another, while passing by all of the small events happening in each individual frame. The set of the train also functions in a similar way. The physical compartments of the train are like physical manifestations of similar frames; in each of there frames (compartments) there is an independent story happening, involving some human being. The compartments then function as a symbol of everyone’s own journey; just as the brothers occupy a compartment on the train, there is someone in every compartment, also on a journey of some sort to discover himself or herself.
As far as the plot goes, there was nothing particularly original; there’s a good number of films where members of privileged society take a trip to India to discover themselves (it’s a nice, but blatant cliche). In my mind, the element that differentiated this movie from numerous other movies was the abrupt quality to the dialogue; all the characters say it as it is, with no attempt to use euphemisms or anything of the kind. This way of conversing defines the serio-comic feel of the film; the characters speak seriously, but the content of their dialogue is humorous in nature (or the reverse the content of the dialogue is serious, but the delivery is comic).
Plot-wise, there were two things that really caught my attention. First is that all the brothers, in their grief, rely upon un-prescribed, obscure, and powerful Indian medications. This is interesting in that it is a substance abusive dependence, but not on the typical drugs (i.e. marijuana, cocaine, etc), but on medicine, which many people depend on to make pain better. However, how much does medicine actually do to heal the pain? Or does it serve more as a crutch, to get by until things get better.
The second interesting point was that the brothers kept getting united by some form of death. The first time, it was the death of their father, when all three of them raged against the car mechanic who was supposed to fix their father’s porsche. The second time was at the death of one of the Indian boys they had been trying to save. About two months ago, a family member of mine passed away, and his passing was the reason why family who had not seen each other for seven plus years saw each other again. It’s interesting that the emotional pain associated with loss brings people together to comfort each other. That is what kept happening with the brothers; they would only emotionally come together at a loss like this. However, by the end of the movie, it seems that the brothers come together to support each other against their own individual vulnerability.
After this mess of a discussion, it is sufficient to say that I enjoyed watching Darjeeling Limited. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Moonrise Kingdom, but it was a refreshing break from the typical movies. Occasionally the brisk and abrupt dialogue style was draining, and sometimes even frustrating. Overall though, it was a nice touch to the generic story. If you’re in the mood for a one time movie, try out Darjeeling.