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Last Updated: Friday, 23 November 2007, 08:25 GMT
Wes Anderson's passage to India

By Emma Saunders
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Wes Anderson
Anderson's other films include Rushmore and Bottle Rocket

Film-maker Wes Anderson returns to the theme of dysfunctional families in his latest big screen outing, his first in three years.

In The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson follows the spiritual journey of three estranged brothers across India, still grieving for their dead father and in search of their mother.

Anderson, still best known for his Oscar-nominated film The Royal Tenenbaums, concedes it is a topic he finds hard to get away from.

"We made a rule we weren't going to have anything to do with parents with this movie.

"But by the end, we'd finished the script and it's about how these guys react to the death of their father and finding their mother," he says.

'Great adventure'

He admits it's "personal" to him but says he doesn't know why, although he is one of three brothers himself and his parents divorced when he was eight.

Whatever the reasons, it is clear Anderson does not like to work on his own.

He never writes alone and is something of an auteur, getting involved with every aspect of film-making, and is also renowned for working with familiar actors and crew.

Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson
Wilson's character Francis (r) is desperate for the brothers to bond

Old friends Owen Wilson - who reportedly attempted suicide earlier this year - and Jason Schwartzman play two of the brothers, and are joined by a newcomer to Anderson's "set", Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody.

Did Brody find it hard to fit in with the familiar clique?

"Adrien is very accustomed to showing up on a movie set, figuring out the dynamic. He's very good at adapting to that," explains Anderson.

The Darjeeling Limited was written by Anderson, Schwartzman and another good friend, Roman Coppola, son of film director Francis Ford Coppola.

It is a process which Anderson says he enjoys.

'Spare and elliptical'

"I like working with collaborators. I've always worked with my closest friends, we had a great adventure writing this one. We kind of work together like we're brothers."

The three travelled to India to write the film, with much of the action shot on a real train.

As with all Anderson's films, the attention to detail is striking, with the camera lingering languidly on the diverse landscape and the often confused faces of its protagonists, all of whom display Anderson's trademark deadpan black humour.

Bill Murray
Bill Murray makes a mysterious appearance

But the film leaves many fundamental questions unanswered - namely why their mother (Angelica Houston) leaves for India without a forwarding address after her husband dies.

And what what becomes of Jack's (Schwartzman's) former girlfriend, played by Natalie Portman in a short film titled Hotel Chevalier, which plays ahead of the main feature?

Anderson explains it was his intention to leave the audience puzzled.

"Any time we could avoid explaining something, we just took it out - we wanted the movie to be spare and elliptical and to leave these mysteries open," he says.

Bill Murray, a veteran of Anderson's movies, opens the film as he tries in vain to catch a train.

The viewer assumes he must be a leading character but Murray is not seen in the film again.

Bottle Rocket (1994)
Rushmore (1998)
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Hotel Chevalier (2007)
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

"People ask me, 'Who's Bill Murray?' I like that people have different interpretations of who he is," Anderson explains.

It may be frustrating for the audience, but does Anderson usually feel satisfied with his end product?

"That's the difficult thing about making movies, you never really know what you've got. And then the first time you show it to an audience, you suddenly learn some things," he says.

His next project is unchartered territory - his first animation, an adaptation of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox, but remains unfazed by the challenge.

"Most of my job is similar to what it is on any movie. The animators themselves are almost like actors because they're trying to take these puppets and make them seem like they're alive."

The director says he tries not to become too concerned with reviews of his films.

"It's hard to learn much from critics because everyone has a different reaction. You've just got to do your own thing."

The Darjeeling Limited is released in the UK on 23 November.

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