Uses Cross-Cultural Perspectives to Examine Family Grief in 'The Darjeeling Limited'

The Darjeeling Limited critiques the Eat Pray Love-style travelogue with a sympathetic analysis of misunderstanding and sorrow as it follows three brothers called Francis, Peter, and Jack as they go on a journey of spiritual development and family reunification in India. Even though The Darjeeling Limited has long been regarded a small Wes Anderson film, it has become a beloved part of the Andersonian jigsaw, serving as a bridge between Anderson's family-oriented character studies of his early work, and the more detailed ensemble pieces of his later work. The Darjeeling Limited is Anderson's most visually stunning picture to date, and it uses that visual flair to tell a heartfelt and multifaceted story of development and loss.

It has been said that Anderson's focus on the brothers' mistaken attitude to cultural experiences in The Darjeeling Limited depicts the "lost in translation" experience of jointly grieving the death of their father, despite the film's worldwide viewpoint. A methodical meditation on the ever-changing process of grief, The Darjeeling Limited utilizes Anderson's narrative doubling between the village funeral and the short film of the father's funeral at the film's center. This, combined with Anderson's use of the train as a symbol of personal loss makes The Darjeeling Limited an effective meditation.

To depict their brothers' journey of self-discovery and reconciliation, Anderson draws on the richness of local Indian culture while also indicting the protagonists' willful ignorance of their relationship with a bereaved family and their place in the world at large. Anderson uses the perspective of curious visitors to the region while also paying reverent homage to the richness of Indian sociocultural rhythms across the country. To wit, Anderson chronicles the brothers' spiritual journey, which includes stops to Hindu temples, a Catholic convent in the Alps, and many more in between.

Anderson hints to the devastating legacy of Western colonialism in India by comparing the influence of Eastern and Western faiths on diverse communities and landscapes. This attacks the brothers' originally selfish feeling of self-actualization via their privileged experiences in another nation. Three central brothers can find both solace and peace through their educational international experiences thanks to Anderson's deft yet subtle shifting of the central narrative from the misguided "travelogue voyeurism" and into the nuanced personal experiences of "lost in translation," which is a delicate but powerful shift in perspective.

As a whole, the film's second act is one of its most emotionally and conceptually complex, with a little boy's death paralleled to the loss of their father. At the youngster's burial, after Jack had tried and failed in his attempt to save him from an onrushing river, his fellow villagers ask Francis, Peter, and Jack to show their forgiveness and wish for reconciliation for their failure to save the boy. Short vignette based on Jack's semi-autobiographical short tale shows the brothers arguing about their family automobile and their mother's absence on their trip to the burial of their father in India. After their father's death, the brothers' relationship begins to deteriorate, and the spectator sees it play out in real-time as the micronarrative progresses.

Image courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Through these shared experiences, the characters and the viewer develop a stronger knowledge of growth through mourning rather than isolation because of loss. As the brothers' erroneous involvement with Indian culture and foreign rituals becomes clearer, the parallel paths of the family burial and the funeral of a stranger demonstrate how sadness can impede clear communication and portray the familiar as alien. In spite of this, the film is a contemplation on working through loss with loved ones rather than fighting to conquer suffering alone, thanks to the compassion of strangers and the brothers' hard-won humility.

Along with the film's poignant narrative beats, Anderson's use of the train as a metaphor for sorrow and loss elevates The Darjeeling Limited to the status of one of cinema's most beautiful elegy. For all of The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson uses a train as a metaphor for sorrow, which gives the brothers the opportunity to reflect on their own grief journey and their role in the wider universe. Toward the conclusion of the film, a long-take tracking view across the railway carriages of numerous minor characters helps the audience to imagine the universe of the film beyond the three brothers' insular trip through India.

Long take tracking shots reveal a variety of minor characters, including Jack's ex-girlfriend Rita, Francis's assistant Brendan, and Peter's wife, all seated in train car-like setups in their houses or means of transportation. Anderson and his team instead use the sequence as an atmospheric break from the film's primary trajectory, representing the brother's journey of mourning by stressing the world's continuing movement beyond them.

This section is marked aside as a narrative impossibility since it occurs outside the brother's experiences in India, and instead of typical railway compartments, the production designers employ parts of residences, hotels, and airline cabins to represent the locational dissonance amongst linked characters. Anderson explores the existentialist of processing personal loss by showing how little the brothers' position in the world is during their train journey, which parallels the cycles of grieving with the seemingly endlessness of the brothers' train journey.