Review of Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited

darjeeling ltd

We finally got to see The Darjeeling Limited this past weekend at the Arclight (our first time there) and the whole thing was a magical experience. Darjeeling, the 5th full length movie by Director Wes Anderson, does not disappoint. Besides the typical things we’ve come to love in Anderson’s films – slow motion scenes with classic rock n’ roll in the background, the luxurious colors, the farcical characters, and the off beat dialogue – there are plenty of new twists and turns. For one, this is the first of Anderson’s movie to reference any kind of explicit spirituality. The Darjeeling Limited is the name of a train that crosses the vast landscapes of India, and India as the context for the movie is not without rich resources for offering its own account of Eastern spirituality. Throughout the movie we see the three main characters, who are brothers in the film, tinker with a variety of religious expressions and forms, experimenting to find what works best. These spiritual experiments, over the span of the movie, work to break down the walls between the brothers. And while this is an essential aspect to the movie’s overall scope what is possibly the most important part of the movie is that while the main characters seemingly don’t find anything at all (none of their spiritual explorations seem to “work”) this leads them to discovering exactly what they set out to find: a renewed trust in one another.

One thing that makes Wes Anderson, and this film more specifically, so good is that he continues to revisit some of the same themes over and over again but from a variety of perspectives and contexts. Themes like identity, death, the role of parents in shaping our past and present, the role of community, and longing fill his narratives, and while every movie has in some way a “feel good ending” there is always much left unresolved. Anderson is quintessentially postmodern only if because he refuses to make everything come out all right in the end, there is no neatly packaged reality in these films. Life goes on, and his characters learn and grow in spite of the challenges put before them because they face them head on. While there continues to be much left unresolved and many heartaches to be mended, Darjeeling ends with the feeling that the three main characters will somehow find their way, if for no other reason than they have one another.

If you have enjoyed previous Anderson’s movies, or as Jason Schwartzman has said, “if you have a family,” you will enjoy this movie. Because it’s an emotionally complex story you leave the theatre feeling good, but with a lot to think about, which is something I like in a movie. And since there’s much more to be said about the movie, there is much more to be said in writing about it! I can imagine something in the near future being written in the way of Anderson type theology. Stay tuned, and let me know what you thought of the film.

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

11 thoughts on “Review of Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited”

  1. I just saw it last night and loved it completely. I’ve been a big Wes Anderson fan for years, so I’m not surprised I liked it so much. But given that my dad died in the past month, this film has sunk into my bones faster and will likely remain in me longer than most any film for a long time. Watching this movie at this time in my life felt like a part of my mourning and healing process.

  2. Tyler,
    thanks for the comment. Wow, I can see how this movie would be rather powerful story for you right now. I think Anderson’s films have that way of helping in this process, I’ve thought a lot about Tenenbaums in relation to father-son relationships.

  3. while royal remains my fave, this one is up there… the imgery of baggage (and leaving it behind) and catching the train…good stuff. Grief, letting go, also big.

    who do you think bill murray’s character symoblised (if anything) – maybe the dad?? kind of cool to think about. glad you liked the film too. the funeral scene made me bawl like a baby in a scottish movie theater…

    peace.

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