My friend Dustin and I decided to go take in a movie yesterday at the wonderful Arclight. (This is LA after all, one has to see films whenever possible.) So as I perused the schedule, I noticed “The Darjeeling Limited” was playing and thought it would be great to see a film set in India. I was curious about the representation of India through Western eyes and also what it might stir up in me having just returned. The movie itself and its plot were sweet and somewhat humorous, but not a whole lot else. The “setting” was a complete mess, and not at all in the real Indian sense. I am sure that I found the environment far more distracting that the typical viewer, but there were so many things they got wrong about India (or even the “idea” of India). From the perfect American accent of the conductor on the train, to his girlfriend’s breezy Western sexuality, to the unreal mix of religions and regions, to the train itself, everything was out of whack. If this was the representation the filmmakers wanted for India, there was certainly no reason to go on location. One has the impression that they dreamed up their “vision” of what India is or was, and then went to India to make it fit, realities be damned.
The one good idea that the film tries to portray is that the journey is the destination, and one’s steps to enlightenment come not just from the preplanned visits to “holy” places, but more importantly from noticing and being part of the chaos of life (and death) swirling about us.