Category Archives: Reflections

A Critical Re-evaluation Of The Darjeeling Limited Through Spontaneous Weeping

So there I was, listening to Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround at 2am because there were other things I ought to be doing and, well, I just really like The Kinks.

Recalling that the song “Strangers” was featured in some or other of Wes Anderson’s films, I did a quick Google and quickly recalled that the director did indeed use the song in The Darjeeling Limited. (“Strangers” is actually one of three Kinks songs used in the soundtrack, all played over slow-motion sequences featuring the lead actors running.)

Set on a course of distraction, I followed some links to various articles on Wes Anderson’s use of pop songs in his movies and, while scanning one that proclaimed itself a ‘Top 7 Musical Moments’ in Anderson’s work, I found the scene in question from The Darjeeling Limited at no. 1.

Until now I would have considered TDL to be the least of Anderson’s films, the unfamiliar, foreign and generally poverty-stricken locations clashing with the lead characters’ self-obsessiveness in a way I found distasteful, and the movie contains one of the most condescending lines I’ve ever heard uttered onscreen. But that’s for another time.

I tried to play the clip to see if time had treated the scene better than my memory had. I don’t recall being particularly affected during my first viewing, but that was probably more down to my apathy towards the rest of the film in general.

For those who don’t remember, the scene takes place immediately after Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman’s characters have dived into a treacherous river to rescue two Indian boys who have fallen in. They both retrieve the boys, but only Schwartzman’s boy survives. “Strangers” plays in the next scene, in which the three leads walk out of a hut towards the funeral in slow motion.

Anyway, the clip didn’t work because I’m in the wrong country, so I just put the Kinks on again and replayed the scene as best I could according to my memory. When I came upon the image of Adrien Brody holding a dead child in his arms – and this isn’t even close to the reaction I had in the cinema – I instantly broke down and burst into tears.

I don’t know exactly why; a combination of my finally connecting that image to Brody’s character’s anxieties about becoming a father, the added poignancy of the song playing to nothing but my own memories and being on the verge of sleep deprivation, most probably. And there was probably some personal stuff mixed up in there, like there always is with this stuff. But that’s not the point.

It’s an odd experience, and not one that’s affected me in such a tremendous way since, but I’m glad I felt it, because I now feel entirely different about The Darjeeling Limited. I’m a big believer in the theory that films (and books and songs and dances and buildings) change as we do, that they can say something entirely different to us nearly a decade apart despite not actually having been altered a single frame, and this experience proved that again to me in the most visceral way possible.

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And that’s about the most appropriate re-introduction to my (hopefully) re-commencing semi-regular posts on this thing, in a way. Who knows what they’ll be, but if my new job’s any indication, there’ll probably be a whole load of links and self-promotion. Not to scare you off or anything.

So, yeah. Welcome back! I’ll make sure it’s not too boring and that the confessions about spontaneous weeping are kept to a minimum.

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EDIT: So I just re-watched the relevant scenes in the film and have misremembered a fair amount about the sequence, but not really any stuff that affects the point of this post, so I’m just going to leave it as is.

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