The auteur brings his idiosyncratic style and a developing sense of filmmaking maturity to the East in this colourful and quirky shot-in-India road trip.
Dir. Wes Anderson
2007 | USA | Comedy/Drama/Adventure | 91 mins | 2.40:1 | English, Hindi & various other languages
PG13 (passed clean) for some language
Cast: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Irrfan Khan, Anjelica Huston
Plot: With a plan to find themselves and bond with one another, three estranged brothers set off on a soul-searching train voyage across India.
Awards: Won Little Golden Lion; Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice)
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Subject Matter: Moderate – Journey
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
First Published: 6 Jun 2018
If you look at the trajectory of Wes Anderson’s remarkable career, The Darjeeling Limited seems to be his most distinctive film insofar as it is set outside of the usual locales his pictures since and henceforth have been staged in.
Reductively, they are Western settings, almost entirely Americanised, but some are Euro-centric like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), so revisiting a film like The Darjeeling Limited is a breath of fresh air, a trip to a far land promising a rich, culturally-vibrant experience.
For the characters Francis (Owen Wilson), Jack (Jason Schwartzman) and Peter (Adrien Brody), three estranged brothers from a broken family, their experience is a spiritual one, or so it was planned.
Visiting India in hopes to reconcile, albeit reluctantly, after their father passed away a year ago, they go on a journey by train and foot, exploring what it takes to bond again to comedic effect.
True to Anderson’s quirky, oddball style, with his aesthetically-exaggerated if precise mise-en-scene, not to mention his invigorating use of colour, The Darjeeling Limited is a flamboyant ode to cross-cultural cinematic endeavours. Anderson would return to Asia again in his latest animation Isle of Dogs (2018).
“I love the way this country smells. I’ll never forget it. It’s kind of spicy.”
This road trip of a movie has its hardcore devoted fans, though most critics have considered it a lesser and weaker film in the director’s oeuvre.
I am not that huge a fan of this, but I recognise its intent and am appreciative of the fact that it could also be the director’s most mature work at that point in time, paving the way for a more contemplative Anderson to emerge from the fun and droll that marked his previous outings.
There is still dry humour in this one, but one could possibly detect a wistful quality to the proceedings, for this is a tale about trying to regain the capacity to love and (re)connect with one’s family, and perhaps more deeply, by seeking for spiritual affirmation in a land known for its profound philosophies and religious traditions… just maybe the brothers’ celestial circle could once again become whole.
Backed by a soundtrack of Indian rhythms (some of which are from the films of Satyajit Ray no less, including the opening theme of The Music Room (1958), which is used in the prologue here) and occasional English songs married to the memorable scenes of the trio boarding the train in slow-motion, The Darjeeling Limited may not always be narratively involving, but it has lots of heart and cultural capital.