Searching for the Meaning of Life

What is the meaning of life? Furthermore, how does one discover the purpose of life? HBS students who plan to embark on the India trek over Winter Break will particularly appreciate the philosophical and artistic beauty in Darjeeling Limited. Directed by renowned Wes Anderson, Darjeeling Limited is a seriocomedy about the spiritual journey across the Rajasthan desert in India carried out by the three Whitman brothers: Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Academy Award Winner, Adrian Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman).

Darjeeling Limited is a lush painting soaked with exotic and evocative aesthetics. The film was shot beautifully in India under the talented batons of cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman, production director Mark Friedberg, and the art directors Aradhana Seth and Adam Stockhausen. The setting is magical and mysterious. The film’s vibrant color palettes – the aquas, the blues, the greens, the oranges, the golds – set the magical, chaotic and exotic artistic canvas of the film. According to Aradhana Seth, whose art directing credits include The Bourne Supremacy, every intricate attention to detail was precisely executed in the production design of the film. As a result, the film is a work of art that could also belong in a fine arts museum.

The acting in the film is equally exemplary. Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody and Jason Schwartzman successfully play three challenging characters who symbolize the depressed modern version of the Three Stooges. Despite their ambitious goals, the moment they set foot on the Darjeeling train, the brothers find themselves chugging alcohol, tempted towards lust, and popping Indian pain medication. With much nostalgia, the three brothers search for the meaning of life in their reunion in India.

Throughout the film, the three brothers drag nearly a dozen cumbersome suitcases designed by Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton. They carry heavy baggage both literally and metaphorically, suffering from immaturity. They all have much healing to complete. Francis, the leader of the spiritual journey, has smashed his face in a motorcycle accident, and walks around with a head wrapped up like a mummy. Obsessively eavesdropping Jack consistently hacks into his ex-girlfriend’s machine to listen to her messages. Peter has abandoned his wife because he cannot deal with the fact that she will be giving birth to their first child.

By the end of the film, the brothers are able to free themselves from all their baggage (again, both literally and metaphorically). Anderson’s final shot inside the Darjeeling train displays breathtaking beauty, melancholy and as well as a surprise appearance by Natalie Portman. Perhaps those who are unable to venture out to India in the near future will find solace in accompanying Wes Anderson and his three principle characters in Darjeeling Limited on their quest for meaning and transcendence in life.

Wes Anderson – Director / Screenwriter / Producer (e.g. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Royal Tenenbaums)
Roman Coppola – Screenwriter / Producer (Son of Francis Ford Coppola)
Jason Schwartzman – Screenwriter / Actor (e.g. Acting credits include Marie Antoinette)

Owen Wilson – Francis Whitman
Adrien Brody – Peter Whitman
Jack Whitman – Jason Schwartzman
Bill Murray – The Businessman
Anjelica Huston – Patricia (Mother of the Whitmans)
Natalie Portman – (surprise appearance.)

Fox Searchlight Picture (USA)
20th Century Fox (International)

Darjeeling is currently playing in the following theatres within the Harvard vicinity:
Landmark Kendall Square Cinema (1 Kendall Square | Cambridge, MA 02139)
AMC Loews Boston Common 19 (175 Tremont Street | Boston, MA 02111 )
Coolidge Corner Theatre (290 Harvard Street | Brookline, MA 02446)

October 29, 2007
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