Exploring Soundtracks: The Darjeeling Limited

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Today we’ll be looking at yet another Wes Anderson film, his fifth, “The Darjeeling Limited”, which came out in 2007. Once again, our timeline is a bit screwy here, since we started off our Wes Anderson journey with “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou”. But just pretend we covered that last time, and now we’re back on track.

While most of the scores in Anderson’s films were composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, “The Darjeeling Limited” was the first to not feature any of his work. Since the film is set in India, Anderson enlisted the help of notable Indian artists for the music. Most of the score was written by Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray. And the soundtrack also features other artists from the cinema of India.

Synopsis

“The Darjeeling Limited” follows the story of three estranged brothers, Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrian Brody), and Jack (Jason Schwartzman), who haven’t spoken since their father passed away over a year ago. Francis is recovering from a motorcycle acident, Jack can’t get over his ex-lover, and Peter can’t cope with his wife’s pregnancy.

The three reunite on a train called the Darjeeling Limited. As they travel, the three brothers fall into old patterns of behavior when Francis reveals the real meaning of their trip. To visit their mother (Angelica Huston), who has become a nun at a Himalayan convent.

The Darjeeling Limited

The first song American audiences will recognize is “This Time Tomorrow” by The Kinks.  This one plays at the end of the opening sequence, in which Peter and a businessman (Bill Murray) are both racing to catch up to the Darjeeling Limited train as it leaves the station. It’s part of another one of those classic Anderson slow-motion shots he likes to use to bookend his films.

There are a total of three Kinks songs in the soundtrack. “This Time Tomorrow”, “Strangers”, and “Powerman”. It’s safe to say that Wes Anderson is a Kinks fan, as I think they’re the one band that has played in almost every film of his we’ve looked at so far. These three each play during critical scenes in the movie, and serve as markers on their spiritual journey.

“Strangers” comes in during a scene in which the brothers try to save three boys from a river. the death of one of them grounds the three brothers, and marks the real beginning of their spiritual journey. When they return the body back to a small village, they’re welcomed as strangers, and stop getting caught up in their own egos.

The final song, “Powerman”, comes in at the end of the film, as the brothers chase after and board another train. This scene mirrors the first, with the lyrics mentioning that “it’s the same old story”. By the end, we’re asked to consider (by paying attention to the music) if they’ve even changed at all.

Final Thoughts

A final interesting note is that, unlike any of his other films, “The Darjeeling Limited” soundtrack does feature a Rolling Stones song. “Playing With Fire” plays as the brothers and their mother try to express themselves in silence, without using their words. The problem of not being able to express emotion is maybe the most apparent theme that ties the film together.

Throughout the film, the brothers are all focused on themselves, and in experiencing these moments of grand, self-discovery and actualization. The music in the scenes above may give some insight into how they’re feeling at the time. Since they’re all so incapable of communicating this to one another, the music pulls a lot of the weight.

Track List

  1.  Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) – Peter Sarstedt
  2.  Title Music From Satyajit Ray’s Film JALSHAGAR – Ustad Vilayat Khan
  3. This Time Tomorrow – The Kinks
  4.  Title Music From Satyajit Ray’s Film TEEN KANYA – Satyajit Ray
  5.  Title Music From Merchant Ivory’s Film THE HOUSEHOLDER – Jyotitindra Moitra And Ustad Ali Akbar Khan
  6. “Ruku’s Room” From Satyajit Ray’s Film JOI BABA FELUNATH – Satyajit Ray
  7. “Charu’s Theme” From Satyajit Ray’s Film CHARULATA – Satyajit Ray
  8.  Title Music From Merchant Ivory’s Film BOMBAY TALKIE – Shankar/Jaikishan
  9. “Montage” From Nityananda Datta’s Film BAKSA BADAL – Satyajit Ray
  10.  Prayer (Traditional) – Jodphur Sikh Temple Congregation
  11. “Farewell To Earnest” From Merchant Ivory’s Film THE HOUSEHOLDER – Jyotitindra Moitra And Ustad Ali Akbar Khan
  12. “The Deserted Ballroom” From Merchant Ivory’s Film SHAKESPEARE WALLAH – Satyajit Ray
  13. Suite Bergamasque: 3. “Clair De Lune” – Alexis Weissenberg
  14. “Typewriter Tip, Tip, Tip” From Merchant Ivory’s Film BOMBAY TALKIE (Sung by Kishore Kumar & Asha Bhosle) – Shankar/Jaikishan
  15.  Memorial (Traditional)- Narlai Village Troubador
  16.  Strangers – The Kinks
  17. Praise Him (Traditional) – Udaipur Convent School Nuns And Students
  18.  Symphony No. 7 In A (Op 92) Allegro Con Brio – Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  19.  Play With Fire – The Rolling Stones
  20. “Arrival In Benaras” From Merchant Ivory’s Film THE GURU – Ustad Vilayat Khan
  21.  Powerman – The Kinks
  22. Les Champs-Elysees – Joe Dassin
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