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Take a magical ride on the Darjeeling Limited
The Darjeeling Limited (DVD)
Member Name: silverbird44
The Darjeeling Limited (DVD)
Date: 28/06/10, updated on 28/06/10 (64 review reads)
Advantages: Beautiful backdrop, wacky soundtrack, fab characters
Disadvantages: Takes a while to get into on the first watching
Some films are love stories - boy meets girl, boy loves girl, boy gets together with girl (after a range of mild ups and downs). Some films are war stories, some are adventure stories, some recount great stories from history. But there is the occasional, special film that comes along that does not seem to have any story at all. It sounds like a bad thing: but when done beautifully, and delicately, and carefully, it can result in the creation of such a wonderful alternative world that you do not care at all about the lack of plot. Welcome to the world of the Darjeeling Limited.
The Darjeeling Limited is a 2007 film from famously quirky director Wes Anderson, and is in essence a character study of three brothers on a journey of self discovery through India on the train of the title. These brothers cover pretty much the whole spectrum of dysfunctionality: Peter (Adrien Brody) is a pill popping hypochondriac terrified by his wife's recently discovered pregnancy; Jack (Jason Schwartzman) is a struggling author mooning after his ex-girlfriend; and Francis (Owen Wilson, playing entirely against type) is a dappy control freak who appears swathed in bandages after a motorcycle accident. The root to the problems of all three lies in the death of their father a year previously, and in their abandonment by their mother throughout their lives. All three are loaded down with a huge amount of baggage, both literally and metaphorically.
From the point where the three brothers meet on the train, there is some sort of vague plot progression. The brothers go to temples seeking enlightenment, they argue with the steward of the train, they buy a pet snake and then lose it, they go looking for something important in a convent. But this is not really what the film is about. It is about how three troubled brothers meet, and travel, and change, and come to a new understanding of each other, all set against the vibrant backdrop of India. And there are many reasons why, despite the lack of plot, this is a film that really deserves to be watched.
Firstly, there is the characterisation and the accompanying performances. This is a film with, in essence, three isolated characters, with only occasional intrusions from the rest of the world. If these characters were poorly written then the film would be a nightmare, but instead each of the brothers is an absolute masterpiece, complicated and flawed and filled with tics and quirks. These characters have then been placed in the hands of three incredibly talented actors and brought to glorious, realistic life. It makes such a refreshing change to sit and watch a film and to support characters who feel so real, even if exaggerated, rather than the two dimensional stereotypes that we so often receive. As well as good performances in the three lead roles, there are notable performances from Amara Karan as the stewardess Rita and Waris Aluwhalia as the Chief Steward, and a little spice is added by famous faces Bill Murray and Angelica Huston in small roles. But the focus on just three lead characters means that you get to know these characters very well indeed.
Secondly there is the cinematography, with the central relationships of the film set against the vibrant backdrop of India. This is an aspect of the film which has received criticism from some quarters: however, as someone who knows very little about India I found the bright colours and scenes absolutely captivating. Perhaps what people need to remember is that the world of this film isn't supposed to be entirely accurate - it is reality as seen through Wes Anderson's crazy eyes, and so although not always a precise, considered comment on modern India, this does not stop the film being fascinating and often incredibly beautiful.
A third part of the film which deserves to be mentioned is the soundtrack - a wacky mixture of Indian and Indian-inspired music, English/American pop and a few random French songs. At first this strikes you as slightly peculiar, but despite the lack of continuity in the soundtrack each song matches so perfectly the situation involved that you can't help embracing the weirdness.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, there is the mood of the film. It was billed on release as a comedy, and in a way it is, but not in the obvious, crude slapstick style of such recent films as Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The humour is wry and very subtle, with much of it only picked up on a second viewing. But this humour is a healthy antidote to the darker elements of the film, the examinations of how people can grow apart and the mess that we can so easily make of our lives. The combination of laughter, quirky behaviour and serious comment means that you come away from the film smiling, but also very thoughtful.
I wouldn't recommend the Darjeeling Limited to everyone, as I think it is a film that suits certain personalities and moods better than others. Over the 91 minutes there is very little that actually happens, and many will find the pace too slow for their tastes. But if you can get past expecting this to be like any other film, you will realise that in a quiet, dry way the Darjeeling Limited has an awful lot to say for itself. You will laugh a few times, and quite possibly go slightly dewy eyed at times. It may be a slow ride: but it is an engaging, beautifully acted and wonderful one all the same.
Darjeeling Limited (2007
Director: Wes Anderson
Actors including: Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson
Duration: 91 minutes
Thank you for reading :)
Summary: A quirkily beautiful ride