First off I must make the disclaimer as the critic in this piece, that I have been a Wes Anderson fan much longer than a writing critic. In this vain I will start off with the commonly stated problems of Wes Anderson films, then move to how I interrupt Wes Anderson, specifically in Darjeeling Limited. One of Mr. Anderson’s more personal films, and excluding his most recent Oscar nominated piece The Grand Budapest Hotel, one of my personal favorites.
There have been multiple visionary directors who create stylized works so unique it doesn’t come off as very narrative to some. Provoking those to entitle these directors as art directors who direct. This is often said about Wes Anderson, and is meant to be an insulate of sorts to the story and the overall feeling of narrativity in the piece. This is because art directors handle the look of the film more than the story and direction in which it takes. Art directors are charged with creating the world in which the story can live but not the actions in which it takes. So calming the director is an art director who directs, is suggesting the events and order in which these events happen create a lack luster appeal for the common viewer. From this reasoning I have presented it becomes rather clear why this clam has been made towards Wes Anderson. Mr. Anderson creates heavily stylized gorgeous films that constantly are playing with color, perspective, space and depth, all things an art director would be very conscience of. Secondly Mr. Anderson employs rather anti-climatic events and a bizarre cast of characters to bring his stories to life. Often allowing the mundane to dictate the way the scene goes and an episodic approach to the causation from scene to scene. Meaning the adjacent scenes that follow one another are meant to be seemingly unlinked, un related events, similar to the realistic causation of life rather than narrative. Often in a piece with high narrativity the scene’s events directly lead the story to the next scene’s events, having a chronological order creates a story with normalization. So the question is, can mundane events told out of normal narrative discourse, still be a fantastic film.
The Mundane, in a world of drama, can often be the most captivating. Even in a film that breaks many liner conventions in story telling, he maintains his manipulation of the story world superbly. By creating many micro- narratives that exist more outside the visible story world than in, produces a high level of inquisitive narrativity. A woven fabric of characters that are all connected in some way is presented to the viewer, as an abstract painting does, leaving the viewer to connect the larger into whole narrative. However in our main characters we get a detailed rich shared character backstories through these secondary set of rarely seen characters that are ambiguously described. This gives great detail to our main characters by association. We learn how these characters present themselves, who they surround themselves with, mostly who does these characters think about. In the realms of demiurgic value, these visual cues as an observer, can describe the characters more as humans then typical film characters. The act we put on for society encompasses all things visibly associated with us and how we act or what we say in conversation. But what goes forever unknown is the inside thought and feelings of the individual, what is their ambitions, fears, and desires. This film shares this information but not in the traditional sense, no character confines in the audience or their brothers. But through the actions of who these brothers are trying to reach out too or reminiscence about, we learn where their desires, fears, and ambitions lie.
This movie challenges the viewer to be able to understand the characters emotion and internal state with limited to no dialog on emotion but rather with a vast amount of visual cues. Clearly with Wes Anderson the visuals will be stunning and unique, but in Darjeeling Limited the visuals were precious. Linking scenes and characters together through objects mentioned earlier then being revisited was often employed. Wes Anderson would give us this information often in a classic Anderson close up. Often a moving tight shot on the subject, the most memorable connection of shots exists linking a perfume bottle to Jack. One of our main characters and the youngest brother of the three, whose fault drives from a woman he can’t escape. The first time we see this bottle of perfume is in the part one of The Darjeeling Limited, Hotel cheval a short film focusing on Jack and his last meet up with the girl he can’t move on from. The girl is played by Natalie Portman who creates a seductive bad girl with a immediately clear troubled past, But still has great passion for Jack. In a quick shot Mr. Anderson shows us the girl dropping a package in Jack’s very unique luggage. We won’t know what is in this package until a half hour into the Film Darjeeling Limited, once Jack discovers the package in his suitcase and opens it. He finds the bottle of perfume, which happens to be her fragrance. This creates a regression for Jack by him stooping to the level of checking her answering machine, a low point for him in this story. This huge character event in the story is really set up in the short prequel Hotel cheval. Showing off Wes Andersons fancy in setting things up to be visited much later, which is often employed in story, but often not in such a mundane way. But through this created no risk suspense we start caring or at least wondering what is going to happen to this inanimate object. Another way Mr. Anderson stressed the visuals is keeping the camera at a distance in certain dramatic points, which prevents us from hearing what’s going on, and allows the viewer to speculate. This speculation is quite joyous, because our implications will almost go unanswered, so the sky is the limit to what is being said in these scenes. What is stressed by doing this is the action, what are the brother’s choices in these moments, no persuasion from the character, just what we see them do is what we know.
Small events that would blow screen time get put off then put off so the audience beings to await the return of this event. With the built anticipation the event becomes much more important, and awaited. But without this building this story would be a collection of mundane loosely related events, done by three rich white privileged brothers who struggle with their own lives and their relationships in life. All of this still may be true but Wes Anderson made us care about these characters. This movie is late to it’s own events, creating it’s own pacing, and allowing much of the events to live in the story world and off screen at the same time. Movies use events to drive the plot forwards, these events seem to de rail this train. Living off the itinerary schedule is how many liner films live off the adjacent events, that rely on each other and all move the story in the same direction, towards the end. This film lets the schedule be dropped off for a while and discover it self even if they are just backtracking. The want may be unknown at times, may change momentarily, we may not understand. All of these things exist in life much more than in any traditional film, and film is most often an attempt to mimic humanity. Humans that dabble in humanity should like Darjeeling Limited, with Hotel cheval as the appetizer.