The Darjeeling Limited, 2007, directed by Wes Anderson.
This is my entry in the Wes Anderson Blogathon, hosted by https://seanmunger.com/ I hope you like it!
In 1968, four men in smart suits travelled to India in order to practise meditation. They were the Beatles. In 2007, three men in smart suits travelled to India in order to find themselves. They were the Whitman brothers, the central characters in Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited. Ok, I’m misleading you by mentioning the Beatles, but I’ll get to that in a bit. Francis Whitman (played expertly by Anderson regular Owen Wilson) invites his estranged brothers Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman, also a co-writer for the film) on a trip to India, with the hidden intention of visiting their mother, who now lives a quiet, religious life in the mountains (played by another regular, Anjelica Huston). They travel through the country on the Darjeeling Limited train, a place where you are offered a ‘sweet lime’ when you board and chatty Germans occupy the dining car.
The Whitman brothers are forced together in their shared compartment, arguing over petty belongings and drowning their sorrows in their over counter medicines. Francis has the trip all planned out, with a strict itinerary created by his assistant Brendan (don’t mention Brendan’s baldness, he’s sensitive). But Francis soon discovers that spiritual activities and personal realisations can’t be timetabled alongside everyday events. A visit to a temple is overshadowed by Francis’ need to buy a power adapter and their fear of pickpockets; while their attempt at a religious ceremony goes completely wrong. If anything, very little of Francis’ itinerary is completed. But the unplanned events are those that bring the Whitman brothers closer together: midnight realisations in the desert while listening to Clair de Lune, a failed rescue attempt and their mother’s quick escape all make for effective brotherly bonding.
So why are the Beatles relevant? Well they aren’t directly in the film, they’re not referenced nor are they in the soundtrack; but I can’t help but associate them with the Darjeeling Limited. The Beatles are a symbol of Western pop culture, particularly in relation to the 60s, and throughout the film there is this contrast between Indian and Western culture. The soundtrack has an intriguing mix of the Kinks, the Rolling Stones and more traditional Indian music; some songs are played by Jack on his iPod Classic (if you watch Anderson’s accompanying short, Hotel Chevalier, you’ll soon figure out his favourite). Even Brendan’s modern laptop clashes with colourful interior of the train. But for me, the Whitman brothers themselves resemble the Beatles, or how I imagine they were in India; pursuing spiritual discovery but not quite letting go of everything that they are familiar with.
The Whitman brothers’ journey isn’t easy, but in true Wes Anderson style it is a visual delight. Welcome to the Darjeeling Limited: sit back, sip a sweet lime and enjoy the ride.
All photos, except the blogathon banner: https://film-grab.com/2010/07/19/the-darjeeling-limited/