“I guess I got a lot of healing to do”-Darjeeling Limited and its look to the inner self with Renoir and Ray.
Hello guys! First of all,happy 2013 to all my readers! Now to kick off the new year,I will start talking about one of Wes Anderson’s under-appericated films-The Darjeeling Limited. For those who did not watch this film,it may contain spoilers of the film. I suggest that you should watch this film before reading my comparisons
In the development of The Darjeeling Limited,Wes Anderson was inspired to make a film set in India after watching Satyajit Ray films and Jean Renoir’s The River. Now I shall trace the inspirations for The Darjeeling Limited and there I would make comparisons to his actual film.
Based on a novella by Rumer Godden,it chronicles 3 young girls’ experiences in the Bengal River. Wes Anderson recounted that Martin Scorsese showed him the print of The River and he was inspired to make a film in India. If I could recount on how Wes Anderson is subtly influenced by the river for Darjeeling Limited,it would be the premise of the story. The three main protagonists have to learn to cope with painful aspects of life. For the three main characters in the River,Harriet have to learn about her sexual awakening with her crush with Captain John,Melanie is struggling about her cultural identity and for Valerie,she learns about the heartache about love.
For the Darjeeling Limited,the brothers do have their own struggles,for Francis it was the attempt of getting over his depression after an implicit attempt of suicide. It was pretty frightening and true as we seen the actor Owen Wilson (who played Francis) withdrawing from the media after his attempted suicide and his battle with depression after the making of that film. In that conversation in the airport toilet,where he unwrapped that bandages from his face and commented to his brothers “I think I still got a lot of healing.” It is somewhat subtle,as Francis is still trying to grapple with his depression and grief over his father’s death.
Peter is still wrangling with his emotions especially his father’s death as Peter Tougette talks about his experience when watching that film in the feature “PICTURES OF LOSS: THE DARJEELING LIMITED, directed by Wes Anderson”
My point is that I think my identification with Peter allowed me to comprehend his stoic grief in the scene I just described. “That could be me,” I thought to myself. “That is how I might look or act if I experienced a death in the family.” I would have been quick to add, “And thank God I haven’t.”
To me,his breaking point was when he was in that mediation scene,there he was look like he was to break out from his armor of being emotionless and in the end when they caught that train together,he seems to look a lot happier and in peace with himself.
For Jack,the youngest brother-he does struggled with feelings from his ex-girlfriend and he used that little ditty Where do You go (to my lovely) when he tried to seduce Rita,the stewardess of the train. He was often left out by his brothers on their decision on whose affection they get and even Francis bombard his decisions. There is a little slapstick moment where Jack spray his squabbling brothers with pepper spray and there he ran away like a child getting away from trouble.
Just like Renoir’s The River,where Harriet talks about her future with the two other girls. They seem to look towards the future with such hope. The Whitman brothers helped each other in getting the train while letting go of the luggage which contains their dad’s personal belongings and all smiled happily. It shows that they are looking forward to the future together as opposed to the beginning where Peter ran to the train all by himself. The characters learn to grow through the country’s spiritual experiences.
I would like to add another similarity which I think Wes was inspired is the characters’ lives are impacted by a child’s death and there they learnt a lesson from here. For Harriet,she was shocked over Bogey’s untimely death and she rooted to herself to run away. It was until a conversation by Captain John,there she learns about the fragility of life. We could see Bogey as the metaphor for the death of childhood and innocence which Harriet kept within herself. On the other hand,the attempt of rescuing the three children leads the brothers to be united in a desperate moment and by facing death of one of the children. They encountered their own spiritual journey on themselves. Even the song “Strangers” by the Kinks played on the child’s funeral procession talked about the unity of people despite vast differences. As Rushmore Acamedy examines the use of this song “Though they are strangers, both to the villagers and in many ways themselves, they are united by death. By the sadness the village shares, and the sadness of the loss of their father, and the abandonment by their mother. The sadness that holds them together.” To me it was perhaps the most touching scene of Darjeeling,as it shows a slight breakthrough from the brothers’ squabbling to just pure acceptance of all circumstances.
Visually-wise,as Filmjuice talks about the similarities “the film could be called a colonialist’s view of the country, but Renoir isn’t indulging in exoticism for its own sake; on the contrary, he comes from a position of respect and deep curiosity for its cultural traditions. Though Anderson’s film is about travel, while Renoir’s remains more or less stationary, both come from a distinctly Western vantage, and neither feigns any expertise about understanding a radically different culture.” There is a particular Jean Renoir quote which struck me
The characters of the river believe in work. they believe in the virtues that made the success of the victorian era. rumer godden’s subject was not the condition of hindus. what she and i dealt with in our screenplay of the river, was the story of an english family, symbolising the state of things, that if it exists again, historians in future centuries may categorise as the passing of an era. however perhaps the viewing public will guess that the fisherman that i show on the river boats, the coolies who animate the factories with the buzz of their incessant activity, the crowds that circulate in the bazaar, and those individuals from all classes who drowsily loll on the steps of the temples, are unconsciously the authors of the collapse of the world established by western technology.
Just like Renoir,Wes does not want to create that India based on that stereotypes but rather he wanted to create what the real India was like before his eyes. Yes it contains his quirky colour palate and use of wide shots,however as Richard Brody pointed out “But his overtly documentary methods suggest that his aesthetic is less his own idiosyncratic invention than a fundamental sympathy with the realities he found and that he simply had the perspicacity and sensitivity to capture on film.” It adds a fresh perspective to his style and shows his maturation as the aueteur of his time.
For Sajitay Ray’s films,he commented that ”[Ray’s] work has been an enormous influence on ["The Darjeeling Limited"]… He was my inspiration for coming to India in the first place.” Ray was one of the directors who came out from India’s Golden Age period in Bollywood history,known to the world cinema of the Apu Trilogy where he chronicles a boy’s journey. Inspired the Italian Neo-Realism movement where they focused on the everyday life of the common people. He wanted to depict that India he knows from his own eyes not from the Western perspective where they mystified India as an exotic avenue.
Wes commented that he seen Ray’s films as ‘books’ as “He draws you very close to his characters, and his stories are almost always about people going through a major internal transition.” Perhaps it did influenced Wes Anderson,as the score of his films were used in The Darjeeling Limited as opposed the usual musical collaborators of Mark Mothersbauragh and Alexander Desplat. It adds that humanist touch which Anderson wanted to convey in his films. For instance on Peter’s entrance to the train,they added the Charu’s theme to show the congestion he have to encounter and they even played a popular Bollywood tune “Typewriter,Tip Tip” to add that playfulness during the brothers’ bus trip. As he commented on his soundtrack progress “I often take inspiration from music in how I shoot, and I listened to Ray’s scores continuously during writing the script, and I have selected numerous cues that I think are perfect for my story.” Despite borrowing from a foreign film,it seems to gel in towards the plot of the brothers’ spiritual growth.
In conclusion,with such heavy influences on classics that are reflective like Renoir’s The River and Ray’s films as opposed his usual influences on the flamboyant Orson Welles and the FNW pioneer Truffaut. Yes they do retain its childlike feel,but it goes for a more serious edge by looking towards the inner self in the characters. For the Whitman brothers’ case,they will eventually learn about life’s fragility and slowly they learn to grow like the protagonists of The River and Ray’s films. I would conclude with a quote of Ray himself -”When I write an original story I write about people I know first-hand and situations I’m familiar with. I don’t write stories about the nineteenth century.” Perhaps what draws me towards Wes’ films,it was that relability of his films that make it so magical