All Aboard the Darjeeling
by Jennifer Kimbell


Wes Anderson reinforced himself as one of the most brilliant American cinematic masterminds with his latest film, The Darjeeling Limited, which screened at IV Theater last Tuesday. In this film, Anderson illustrates his love of the exotic by placing the three estranged Whitman brothers, Francis, Peter, and Jack (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman respectively) in the heart of India on a spiritual journey to, as Francis says, “become brothers again like we used to be.” Much like his earlier film The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson once again takes a close examination of the dynamics of sibling relationships.

A genius at making complex and intangible concepts into material symbols; Anderson transforms the train on which the brothers are traveling, The Darjeeling Limited, into a comical vehicle for renewal of brotherhood. In quintessential Anderson fashion, he takes a wry and witty look at the collapse and rocky reestablishment of trust not only between brothers, but also between lovers, married couples, and climatically between mother and son.

There is an apprehension fuming off of each character as they internally and externally fight between holding on to a charred past or letting go to finally confide in one another. The most poignant scene in the film is when the Whitman brothers decide to stay in India together and visit their distant mother, who had become a nun. It is there, in a small covenant on the high mountaintops of India, where the brothers and their mother make a small, significant step towards peace when they ‘communicate without words’ as the Rolling Stones’ ‘Play with Fire’ flits in the background.

The beauty of this film is found in the broken quality within each character, but also the mending ability that each possesses to heal the other. Anderson’s final symbolic feat is when Francis, Peter, and Jack, literally shed their cumbersome baggage to catch their train and complete their journey. This film leaves you not in awe, but has a more subtle impact, like the realization that family problems aren’t so unique. Or perhaps even broader, like the relief one feels at the realization that the paradoxical idea of perfect flaws not only exists but is imperative for us to be human.

Another aspect of this movie that deserves mentioning is the soundtrack. Those who respect the smooth rhythms of classic rock will enjoy the songs by The Kinks– Powerman, This Time Tomorrow, and Strangers. Also, in accordance with the setting of modern-day India, Anderson uses film score music by Satyajit Ray, the Indian filmmaker to whom The Darjeeling Limited is dedicated. This film is elegantly and uniquely Anderson. For all Wes Anderson fans: you will not be disappointed. And for those new to Wes: start here.