In the Darjeeling Limited, three disconnected and disaffected brothers reunite on a journey through India to see their Mother and to discover themselves. Their father has died and they still, literally, carry around the luggage of their relationship with him. His luggage set, which is only opened once, fills their cabins. And yet, they never change clothes throughout the movie.
The movie chugs along episodically. Much like the titular train itself, the movie has multiple stops along its towards its destination including: a hot stewardess, a Catholic monastery, the train itself getting lost just as the brothers are being found within themselves, and some others. This aspect of the storyline bothered me at first–the fact that it is merely a series of events towards a greater enlightenment and resolve. But then I realized that this movie is about brothers on a train and what is happening to them and that made it all okay.
And each brother has his own things he must deal with. For Peter (Adrien Brody), its his wife who has a child. For Jack (Jason Schwartzman), it’s his ex-girlfriend (see Hotel Chevalier for some perspective on their relationship). For Francis (Owen Wilson), it’s his innate loneliness despite his assumed success in the field of business. And each of these problems are represented by, respectively, their father’s sunglasses, his mustache (which he didn’t have in Chevalier) and the bandages on his head. None of their disguises or mechanisms completely devolve throughout the movie, though we see Jack trim his mustache and we see Peter slowly stop wearing the sunglasses and we see Francis remove the bandages–which, up until that point, I thought were a fake and a sob story to keep his brothers along. But none of them completely let go of their internal problems.
But, at the end of the movie, when they’re trying to get on their train home, The Bengal Express, they toss away all of their father’s luggage, finally having coped with his death at the aid of their now-nun mother. That is the resolve: though they haven’t completely fixed themselves, they are now freer and less weighed down to figure it all out–to figure out the depression and the kid and the women.
One of the greatest thing about this film is the universe it is set in. Wes Anderson has a penchant for creating a brilliant universe full of dichotomous depression and bright colors. All the yellows and reds and blues have great contrast to the internal feelings of the movie. That is why India is the perfect place for this movie to be filmed. It’s busy and garish and loud and bright. Yet, within each of them, there’s a dullness. And this country, rather subtly, allows them to brighten up and lighten up.
Which is odd because, at first, Francis is determined as hell to go to every single spiritual place on the journey–not realizing that a short amount of frantic time doesn’t allow for the amount of shutting down that spiritual realization necessitates. However, that is what train offers. The journey itself allows for this time to think and realize and cope and cognate all events in all their lives. What is supposed to be a minor mode of transportation becomes their temple.
And that’s how it is with this movie, and with most Anderson films: what is supposed to be subtle becomes the biggest changer in the characters’ lives. Like saving the Latin program and finding your son on the road to killing a shark and simply being family.
Anderson has filmed this movie brilliantly, getting great, subtle and dim performances from people who we can relate to. We know how it feels to not want to tell anyone anything and to be in a strange land, wondering what the fuck our family is getting up to. And as the train continues and their minds expand, their emotions become more broad and open.
The Darjeeling Limited is a great movie and perhaps my favorite Wes Anderson flick to date.