By 2007, with four films under his belt, Anderson’s dense visual style was fully developed and had made him one of the most recognizable modern directors. Yet, in 2007, with the release of The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson stepped outside of his comfort zone breaking slightly from his signature aesthetic by removing his characters from the typical controlled space (ala the house in The Royal Tenenbaums, or the ship in The Life Aquatic) and placing them into the heart of India. Arriving in India from the west, the Whitman’s, Francis (played by Owen Wilson), Peter (played by Adrien Brody), and Jack (played by Jason Schwartzman) enter into a foreign space both literally and figuratively. Within the vibrant and unfamiliar Indian landscape, the Whitman brothers are the only remnants of the familiar Andersonian world. The men come from a world of button downs, charcoal suits, and monogrammed luggage, but against the backdrop of India they look uncomfortable and confused. This raises questions about the three brothers and their sullen faces, because for all their nice suits and laundered shirts they still look signifcantly less satisifed than the locals with their bright colors, patterned silks, and matching wide smiles.
For westerners a trip to the east has always been a common point of escape, a chance to find whatever it is that’s missing in your life. And the Whitman brothers were no exception, arriving in India as damaged men, in search of enlightenment. No matter how nice their clothes were, or how well-dressed they appeared they were still men who’s lives had gone wrong somewhere along the way. Just as the Whitman brothers adopt the colors and garments of India as their travels and spiritual journey progress, Anderson brings in new elements to his work and expands the horizon of his complex world. This story is not only about the Whitman brothers, removed from their natural habitat and forced to step into the unknown to find happiness, but it also about Anderson on a larger scope. The Darjeeling Limited helped to propel Anderson into a new point in his career, a period of expression where he was free to experiment and expand his world to explore beyond his comfort zone.