But I’m assuming you believe the colors and changes in colors have some symbolic meaning? Or is that not correct?
They suggest psychological and interpersonal dynamics between the two, but since we don’t know much at all about the relationship beyond what we’re seeing you can’t really assign larger, more precise meanings than than to it.
Huh. But don’t the colors have inherent meanings? (I’m not sure what they normally signify—e.g., yellow=friendship, etc.?) I assume Anderson didn’t choose yellow or gray randomly. Is yellow associated with life and maybe whimsy, while gray is associated with something more inert and stodgy? (I’m just throwing ideas out there to give you a sense of what I’m looking for.)
I used the word narrative because Jack is accounting for himself over time, the time he has been away from her. An impression could be something more fleeting, his clothes might make an impression, but the room does something more in other words. That we see the woman tracing his staging from piece to piece also adds to this assertion as it isn’t just a way to make the room look good as a kind of prop for her visit but it is “speaking” to her in some manner.
I said partly illusory because we saw how the room and Jack were before she arrived and how he arranged things specifically for her visit. We don’t know what Jack was doing precisely, obviously those things being there in the first place suggests there is at least some “truth” to the presentation, but there was also the impression that he wasn’t as engaged with them as his staging makes it appear. We can each make our own inferences, but for me there was a strong feeling of stasis in the room initially as if the energy or interests represented by those things had burned off a while ago but he wanted to present the himself more as he had wanted to (still) be rather than as he ended up being.
By adult relation to Sam and Suzy, I don’t mean they are identical, Sam was a chatterbox, for example, while Jack is largely mute. But there is some indication that there relationship might be based on similar needs to that of Sam and Suzy and that they might be together because they both are “damaged” in some way. With the woman this has to be based on inference from the little we know about her and how she and Jack relate, but with Jack there are some subtle suggestions in the feature which more clearly lay out what his issues might be. We will get to more of that later in talking about the feature, but I wanted to plant some suggestion of it ahead of time as, to me, there is some potential connection between the two .
Oh, and, yes, as my later comment indicated Jazz, I knew you were reading this, I just wasn’t sure if anyone else was or if posting in this manner was going to be worthwhile for the effort involved for one who believes in kinetic thrift as much as I do.
You mean the “shrines” want to do more than just impress her—but they should convey some richer, deeper meaning about himself? And is this what you mean by Jack (and the other characters) being storytellers? (That’s the one idea that I have a hard time wrapping my head around.)
As for Jack’s scrambling before her arrival to the room, I’m not sure what he changed in the room. I know he got ready and put on music. (Did he also meticulously arrange the “shrines,” furniture, etc.?) I just interpreted these actions as an attempt to impress, seduce or create some favorable impression of himself and circumstances.
I think I understand the parallels you’re drawing between Jack and his gf with Sam and Suzy.
“shrines” was meant more to describe the look of some of the arrangements than it was anything else, but they do, perhaps, convey the intended spirit of Jack’s time, so in that sense shrine isn’t wholly off as that is, I think, part of the purpose of the arrangements, Jack suggesting that these are the things that matter to him now.
The things were in the room before she arrived, some in approximately the same areas as can be somewhat seen in the stills, but by arranging them Jack gives them a significance they didn’t have before. They become “important” in a way they weren’t when they were strewn about or mixed in with other things.
Oh, and to answer your question about whether these things are more the character’s or Anderson’s, I’d say that the two aren’t entirely separable given the themes and characters of the films, as there is a “design” worked into all of it that has a constancy between artist and work, like the characters being artists, writers, and so on in the films, that layered quality we spoke of earlier, but within that the objects and arrangements seem clearly attached to the characters to me.
I gotta run, not literally of course since running is anathema to me, but I’ll try to give some of my thoughts on the use of color later tonight if I have time.
“to answer your question about whether these things are more the character’s or Anderson’s, I’d say that the two aren’t entirely separable given the themes and characters of the films, as there is a “design” worked into all of it that has a constancy between artist and work, like the characters being artists, writers, and so on in the films, that layered quality we spoke of earlier, but within that the objects and arrangements seem clearly attached to the characters to me.”
Yeah . . . if I remember correctly much of the furniture and other items decorating the set actually belonged to Anderson, but I do think that they are intended to express some specific things about Jack.
What new significance is gained when Jack alters the “shrines” in his room?
When you say that we can’t separate the characters from the filmmaker are you suggesting that Anderson uses the characters as ciphers—to express himself or parts of himself? (I guess I could buy that.)
What do the items express about Jack? (Some of them are hard to see.) Off the top of my head, they seem to suggest a kind of meticulous, geeky personality. The entire film suggests a more feminine personality or character traits as well. Beyond that, I’m not sure what’s revealed by the “shrines,” decor or behavior.
Well, I think the totality of the items, the music, and room itself suggests a particular emotional/spiritual trajectory, which seems to be somewhat altered by the appearance of of Portman’s character, as well as, as you suggested, a sort of psychological portrait of Jack.
Regarding the colors and “symbolism”, while I would be wary of trying to force the use of color to fit some specific outside set of ideas or, in other words, to have a direct corresponding symbolic meaning, there are certain physiological components to color and cultural connotations to colors that can’t be easily altered to fit an opposing scheme so effect use of color has to strike a balance between the culturally connotative and internally associative as they are deployed within the film.
In the case of Anderson’s use of yellow in Chevalier, first I would suggest that yellow is a warm color, but not as strong as say orange or red. However, there is a difference between a color by itself and when it is placed against others that can alter the “meaning” or our relationship to it, which comes into play in the movie and I’ll come back to in a minute.
One of the ways yellow is often used is to represent light, shaded to gold it connects to prosperity or wealth, associated with people it can represent cowardice and sickness and is used to signal caution as well. All of these things, I think, can be limned in Anderson’s use of it, but through association and a sort of essentializing of the above qualities leads to a feeling of conservation, but the amount of it in the beginning also creates something of an artificial feel as if something was on display under lamps.
As Matt pointed out the way things blend together chromatically links the characters to the place and leaves little differentiation which pushes the color or our response to it towards a “pure” reaction to it as there is minimal contrast. This is only the case at the beginning of the short as Jack has largely taken on the characteristics of the room or the color which sets a kind of base for its use through the rest of the film. Later, for example, the greys both characters are wearing stand out from the yellow, and by that time other colors have taken on more force as well such as the red of the carpet. Grey is a neutral color, it doesn’t “say” much in itself, but when placed against the brighter colors it can act as a sort of block by cooling them or attracting the eye if the lighter color is dominant.
Still, her shirt and, later when fully undressed, skin tones aren’t the same as Jack’s robe which is a more direct and purposefully adopted balance with the room. Yet, while the woman does finally fit in with the room when she is standing naked by the door, her skin tones, hair, wood and paint acting almost as whole, Jack bringing her the robe alters the meaning of it and his attitude towards her almost as much in the color as in the gesture and emotions of the piece. But it is when they go outside that a transformative effect happens with the color as in the room it had one feel, but out in the night air another feel entirely as the yellow stands out in the fading light with its blues and beige dominating the shot and and seems much warmer and more “real” now that it is removed from all the surrounding yellows of the room. Almost entirely gone some of the less positive associations with the color, and matched against it color compliment in Jack’s now blue looking suit it carries much of the weight in the final scene regarding changes between the two of them as well.
Given the story of the feature, I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest the possibility of reference to Hinduism as well where yellow has some other associations linked to one of the chakras. I am not conversant enough with the ideas to say too much about it, but I’ll give you a link if you’re interested. Despite my lack of knowledge in the area, i can’t help but quote something on difference between yellow and orange regarding the chakras as it is suggestive of the change between the two of them regardless of whether it was intended or not.
The colour that corresponds to Manipura is yellow. Key issues governed by Manipura are issues of personal power, fear, anxiety, opinion-formation, introversion, and transition from simple or base emotions to complex. Physically, Manipura governs digestion, mentally it governs personal power, emotionally it governs expansiveness, and spiritually, all matters of growth.
The Sacral Chakra (represented by the colour orange) is located in the sacrum (hence the name) and is considered to correspond to the testes or the ovaries that produce the various sex hormones involved in the reproductive cycle. Swadisthana is also considered to be related to, more generally, the genitourinary system and the adrenals. The key issues involving Swadisthana are relationships, violence, addictions, basic emotional needs, and pleasure. Physically, Swadisthana governs reproduction, mentally it governs creativity, emotionally it governs joy, and spiritually it governs enthusiasm.
Primarily Jack’s arranging of the room can suggest a sense of control or purpose that the messy room lacked. It might signal a set of interests that are either outside his previous persona or some that are meant to impress. It indicates time spent productively and thought concentrated on matters outside himself and whatever his problems might be. They are an assertion of self of some sort, and in a way that might seem to us to be as much desired as actualized, but intended to suggest some fulfillment.
No, I’m not suggesting Anderson uses characters as ciphers, I’m just saying that Anderson has a particular milieu he wants to explore, and part of that mirrors his interests in art and constructed order and undoubtedly part of that just comes from his manner of expression and background. It isn’t that different than many other directors who stick to certain “worlds” or interests. the idea of exploring certain relationships and then moving the pieces around to look at it from another angle is central to art history. There are some artists who like to sort of put themselves into radically different contexts, while others seem to prefer to work in a smaller range. Anderson seems to take the idea of giving his characters all the resources they need to see what they will do with them and then sometimes pulling them back to see what they will do without them. He likes to makes films about people who, basically, are given all the rope they need to hang themselves to see what they will do with it. He also has certain stylistic concerns he likes to explore or perhaps that he feels comfortable with, so that too will act as a sort of guide or limit to the films he makes.
And again, don’t get too caught up in “symbols”, though we have talked a little in those terms, mostly it is a question of association within the film, perhaps some more general association outside of it, such as India is a place to go for a spiritual journey, but mostly it is just a matter of “feel”, how the film and characters treat the objects and what they suggest to you. It isn’t anything more definitive than that. All I’m doing is trying to best describe what “we” see and hear, then do my best to fit it all together and talk about how it works on me. Your mileage may vary as the feeling will precede the examination, and the act of examining will create its own ends in some ways.
I liked a lot of your comments about the use of color and allusions to chakras. I found the following especially cool:
Associatively then I saw it as being like armor, as it doesn’t give anything away. As the film progresses, the woman removes items of clothing slowly bringing her more in balance with the room while Jack stays in grey. This can suggest she is warming to the situation, that she is giving up some of the neutrality or armor and “speaking” through the added colors, like the peach of her shirt, and it might suggest some equivalence between her and Jack as he was more “room colored” at the beginning of the film, which might mean they each have some need for something similar.
(Your comments about the characters going outside didn’t resonate with me as much, though.)
I’m not sure I agree with your take on Jack’s arrangement of the room, too.
I understood your explanation about filmmakers and the worlds they create—how Anderson’s world is more specific and narrow (in the sense that film to film his worlds are similar). But the notion that his characters are storytellers and that the stories of these characterse interact and overlap with Anderson’s story is something I still don’t quite grasp. If I understand you and Matt (and others) correctly, I think this is very different from other filmmakers.
Aren’t Anderson’s film notably distinct from other filmmakers? Doesn’t this suggest his concerns are therefore somewhat different as well? I don’t know exactly what you mean by “very different”, but Anderson is clearly a singular filmmaker, for good or bad, and that means they are relaying something singular as well. It isn’t that his films are doing things radically new or anything, there are just different areas of emphasis, something which could be said of all filmmakers with distinctive styles. Whether we’ve managed to fully capture those differences and shed any light on them is another question of course…
Sorry, my post was confusing. I was referring to this:
I’m just saying that Anderson has a particular milieu he wants to explore, and part of that mirrors his interests in art and constructed order and undoubtedly part of that just comes from his manner of expression and background. It isn’t that different than many other directors who stick to certain “worlds” or interests. (italics added) the idea of exploring certain relationships and then moving the pieces around to look at it from another angle is central to art history. There are some artists who like to sort of put themselves into radically different contexts, while others seem to prefer to work in a smaller range.
I agree with this description of Anderson, and I understand what you’re saying. But Anderson seems significantly different—based on the character as storyteller concept—so I don’t think he “isn’t that different from other directors.” See what I mean?
“But the notion that his characters are storytellers and that the stories of these characterse interact and overlap with Anderson’s story is something I still don’t quite grasp.”
Well, I think another way to talk about it in general terms would be talk about it that, on the one had, you would agree with all have a sort of personal narrative of ourselves by which we live, and the degree to which this corresponds with the way other people perceive us probably varies greatly from person to person?
In a given film, what you see as the viewer of the film has an implied level of objectivity/subjectivity, and while something like a work of direct cinema or cinéma vérité might present itself as very far toward the objective side of the spectrum, something like Lodge Kerrigan’s Clean, Shaven presents itself as very far to the subjective side.
Does that make sense?
Right. And this is potrayed in many films. But what you and Greg seem to be suggesting is that Anderson is using or manipulating this a unique way—using Anderson’s narrative and narrative devices to weave in and out of the characters’.
I haven’t seen Clean Shaven, but I’m pretty sure I know what you mean. In the more “objective” approach, the viewer can take what they see at face value, for the most part. While in the more “subjective” approach, we might take what we see with a bigger grain of salt—especially if the POV comes from a person who is clearly not reliable. Yes? (I’m assuming your going to connect these ideas with something later.)
“what you and Greg seem to be suggesting is that Anderson is using or manipulating this a unique way”
Basically, yeah. To oversimplify a bit, one of the things that Anderson does is to “let you in on” the self-contructed-ness aspect of his characters in a way that most directors don’t. This is partly the purpose, I think, of showing Jack preparing the room for her arrival in “Hotel Chevalier.”
Yes, Anderson is unique in the spin he gives to his interests, but not in those interests themselves necessarily. Examining the role of storytelling in the story is as old as literature itself. Cervantes did that with Don Quixote, One Thousand and One Nights was about story telling, Hitchcock played with similar ideas regularly, Lubitsch did so as well, each in different ways of course, and Anderson does so in his own manner which leads to a singular set of emphases. I gotta run, but I think you might be focusing too much on the storytelling thing in itself rather than looking at it as a part of the larger picture. I get the feeling you are thinking of us talking about the films as having a different relationship to “truth” and “fiction” than is intended. Maybe going through the feature a little more will help to clear things up, or knowing me, make them more muddy, but we can at least hope for the former…
When it came to this film, at times, I too felt like the outsider looking in. But I find Darjeeling to be a bit more rewarding than some of his other films, like -The Life Aquatic_ and Rushmore. Its characters were easier to watch and sympathize with, and overall, it was just a bit more mature than his previous efforts.
I can see why you say that Steve, and to some obvious extent it’s true in that it is pitched a little differently than his other films and it isn’t a “comedy” in quite the same way which also gives it a different flavor. That Anderson makes films generally categorized as comedies in itself creates some freedoms and limitations to what he can do and how it will be perceived. As I mentioned to Jazz, Hitchcock was another director who made very controlled films and who would explore somewhat related ideas in his movies, but the tone of a “thriller” shapes those explorations in different ways and has different expectations built into it regarding the handling of character and “reality” in the film’s world as well as, by dint of being “dramatic” has more of an adult air to it. I’m not of course saying Hitchcock and Anderson are equals or doing precisely the same things, just that there are some notable similarities that might show how the genres each worked in effect their expression and reception.
“I haven’t seen Clean Shaven, but I’m pretty sure I know what you mean. "
Right, with that one the protag is mentally ill, so his perceptions are not organized in the way one would expect them to be organized (but also in way that expresses what the director was interested in expressing), and the organization of perceptions is not something that are under the protag’s control. Anderson doesn’t go to that extreme, his films present a more conventionally coherent world, and in fact his characters seem to have a look of control over (or at least input into) how they perceive and experience the world.
Other examples of films I can think of where these kind of personal narratives important to how one experiences of a film would be Nolan’s Memento, where the protag actually has to reconstruct a version of what has happened to him, so the audience discovers this along with him, or something like Lynch’s Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, where the respective protags actually construct narratives in order to escape traumas, and these constructed narratives actually supplant (at least for a time) a more “objective” version of reality that’s also presented in those films.
Again, what Anderson’s doing is something different and unique to him, but these examples might give us a better sense how similar issues are important to other filmmakers even though they are handled rather differently.
What’s really different about Anderson—based on your analysis—is the idea that the characters are storytellers, in addition to the director—creating layers of stories (the characters’ stories being a lower layer, while Anderson’s being a higher one) that weave in and out of each other. I can’t think of another director who does that.
First person perspective and it’s effects—and the way these perspectives are kinds of narratives—are more blatant in Memento and MD—at least for me. In Anderson’s films I don’t really see the first person perspective so much. I see only Anderson’s perspective for the most part. I see the characters’ stories as either so sparse as not to constitute “stories” or they’re so similar to Anderson’s aesthetic/stortelling, that I see the characters’ stories as extensions of Anderson.
Steve said, But I find Darjeeling to be a bit more rewarding than some of his other films, like -The Life Aquatic_ and Rushmore. Its characters were easier to watch and sympathize with, and overall, it was just a bit more mature than his previous efforts.
I felt emotionally distant from the characters, but the tone of the film seems more serious than the previous films (although I still haven’t seen Zissou). I got the sense that it was more personal film as well. So the mature comment resonates with me.
“First person perspective and it’s effects—and the way these perspectives are kinds of narratives—are more blatant in Memento and MD—at least for me.”
Sure . . . those are decidedly unsubtle films.
Jazz, never was I emotionally involved with the characters of Darjeeling, but I didn’t feel as cold or as abandoned as I did in Bottle Rocket and Rushmore. Those films don’t care if you’re on board of not. Darjeeling provided enough development and eccentricities where it seemed to still appear like it was trying to be a well-meaning tale of circumstance rather than just amped up quirkiness like some of Anderson’s previous films.
I had a very similar reaction as you did—although I think not having so strong an emotional attachment hurt the film for me. As a point of comparison, I felt much more attached to the principle characters in Moonrise Kingdom and that made the film more satisfying for me.
To go back to the conversation on the yellow in Hotel Chevalier . I always thought that Anderon’s choice of yellow robes in Hotel Chevalier was a reference to Godard’s film Prenom: Carmen, where the two leads run around a french hotel room in yellow bath robes. Just thought that may be something interesting to consider, he may or may not have gotten it from that.
Iustefan, you may be right about the reference, I can’t say. It’s been around twenty years since I’ve seen Carmen so my recollection of it is hazy at best. It certainly sounds plausible in any case, and I would be curious to see it again to get a better impression.
Jazz, I’m still a little uncomfortable with the way you are saying the characters are storytellers as I’m not quite sure whether or not we are understanding things in the same way. Storytelling seems broader and less defined than the more specific ways Anderson’s characters engage with narrative. To try and put it another way, Anderson’s characters are actively concerned with their own narratives. I say narratives instead of stories since everyone is interested in their own life story to some extent, but Anderson’s characters seem to actually conceive of their stories in terms of a construct rather than something lived in the moment. One of the consequences of this is that the “now” of an Anderson film is, in a way, less “real” to the characters than their past and possibilities for the future. In contrast, in most films the “now” is the “real” to the characters and the narrative whole is something pieced together by the audience or serves as a sort of separate but equal thread to the surface of the film.
That’s vague, so let’s look at a couple of examples, one more traditional and one with characters who are storytellers, but in a different way than in Anderson’s films to see if that helps clarify things.
Die Hard has often been used as an example around here, so let’s use that to stand in for the way a lot of Hollywood films deal with the issue of the past and the “now” and character narrative. Die Hard starts with John McClane flying from New York to LA to try and reconcile with his wife. This is the emotional center of the film for the character. It gives us a story about him and serves as bookends to the main action of the movie as well as serving a developmental role in the plot and providing a rationale for McClane’s actions. The central action of the film is not only represented on an equal level to the emotional, it serves to define the story for most people, the McClane’s marriage woes are seen as secondary. To the characters, the marriage issue isn’t wholly subsumed by the larger drama, but it is subordinated as the concern is more about living and dying. This sort of construction is intended or taken as being “real” as it weighting the events evenly as if lived by the characters. The characters aren’t reflecting on their lives as a narrative, but they are obviously concerned with their “stories” in a different sense as they have a past they are aware of and are trying to get through the events with an eye towards furthering the story. The film ends with the characters reconciled, in a way which is typical for Hollywood, and in disaster and action films in particular.
While the characters are living in the now, and the story is most readily understood in those terms, the underlying subtext or psychology to the genre and to the film allows a viewer to construct a sort of metanarrative where the central action “answers” the emotional issues of the film. I don’t want to even try to give a detailed analysis here, but the idea is that the emotional division in the film, which is the aspect of the story which is closest to our outside reality, is given a sort of metaphoric representation by the robbery and chaos which John must overcome in order to win back his wife. As I suggested, this is far from unique to Die Hard, pretty much every major disaster film has some more “real” emotional center to their construction which the action of the film is based around and “answers” in some way, most often by reconciliation or restoration of the “norm” for the characters, even if that means killing six billion people in order to do so like in 2012. The standard Hollywood story in this way can be understood as roughly conservative in the sense that we are given the idea of an understandable order having existed, being threatened, and then restored. There are variations on this in different genres, zombie films, for example, tend towards a different trajectory, but that is more or less the standard emotional arc for Hollywood.
If we look at Rear Window, we can see some of the same concepts in play in terms of the “felt” reality for the central couple, but in that film Hitchcock presents the story as a sort of metanarrative where the main characters explicitly construct stories for the other people in the film and there is a sort of artifice to presentation which calls one’s attention to the movieness of the movie. In this case, the characters aren’t treating the world of the film as a narrative for themselves, they act in the “real” as they do in Die Hard, but by the way they are creating stories for the others and by the way Hitchcock calls attention to the artifice, the metanarrative becomes more evident and more connected to the emotional issues of the main characters.In this way the story they create for Thorwald, and the actions which come as a consequence of this story, can be seen as, in a way, speaking to their own issues as much as to the directly represented events. It is possible to see the events of the film as “created” by the couple in a sense as a way of dealing with their own problems. With Hitchcock it isn’t a restoration of the norm per se, though the couple is brought together at the end, it is the psychological process which matters more. Hitchcock is interested in the way we work through emotions in a sense.
In Anderson’s films the characters hold a different relationship to the “real” or the emotional center of the film is of a different nature. His characters are c more concerned with their pasts, the past to them is, in a way, more “real” than the depicted events of the film. They are concerned with their narratives in a more direct way; their interest is in the form of their stories themselves. Anderson’s characters “think” in something closer to metanarrative terms. They are often artists or otherwise involved with art objects or games with a clearly delineated “story” form and are thus more like an audience to their own stories in a way which is similar to how we as an audience might respond to stories by Hitchock, for example. It isn’t that they are involved in subtextual analysis directly of course, they are “living” the events of the film, but they respond to those events through the lens of how they effect their emotional needs more than “realistic” representation of action. In this sense, the fact that Anderson makes “comedies” is significant as it allows for the events of the film to be further distanced from our understanding of “reality” as it is normally represented by movies. With Anderson, the process of working through the events is important, but the endings of his films aren’t as much about reconciliation in the fullest sense as they are about coming to the limits of the narrative, or transcending it by reaching a period of transition where the old narrative will no longer hold and the characters are left without the boundaries or defining “story” they had been acting upon. This is why I was saying that there is a layered quality to the films as the events are read through the response of the characters as they effect their construction of their lives.
I might add here that the formal construction of the films, in a sense, drives the concerns of the film. The relationship between character and story/form and audience is the crux of how we think of the movies. The stories by themselves are mutable, the way they are presented creates the way we will experience them by the way the world of the film and characters interact.
Even between directors who are noted as being meticulous craftsmen, the different forms which they apply to capturing their film worlds can create vastly diverse effects on how we perceive them. At the risk of trying to apply different meanings to words which are roughly synonymous are thereby creating some confusion, I’ll try to give a quick example of what I mean.
As I see it, the formal construction of a movie not only responds to the directors concerns and abilities, but it also explicitly challenges its own form, or contains its own contradictions which is where the “art” of it arises.
If Hitchcock is a master manipulator and the form of his films is where we locate this mastery, this also, by necessity, speaks to how the characters in his worlds act and react to it, and since there is almost always the need for conflict of some sort fir the story to have “meaning” for the audience, the location of that conflict will be, in Hitchcock’s case, between manipulation and “free” action as the form defines the world and the characters seek to define themselves against that world. In this way, the director can be seen as battling his own presentation or creating a struggle through the mode of expression itself.
This isn’t unique to Hitchcock, it takes varying forms even among other directors with a strong formal concentration. If Hitchcock’s films can be understood in terms of manipulation of characters and objects, perhaps we can think of Ozu’s films as being “composed”, where the characters and objects have a precise place and this order is something which exists beyond the individual as it is all part of a larger whole. In this way Ozu’s films “mean” through the act of discomposure. The precision of the composition allows us to notice even the slightest disorder within it. His characters are confined within their space, the space in unresponsive to the characters as it exists beyond them, which is one thing the “pillow shots” show, in terms of the stories, the individual is caught in a larger social order and that is the location of the conflict.
With Kubrick, we can perhaps say his films are about control, the characters are acting within systems that are not only unresponsive but actively hostile to individuals. Kubrick’s defining formal characteristic then is explicitly linked to the arena of conflict within his films, that is to say that what we celebrate in Kubrick the director is also what he has placed as the “threat” to his characters within his films creating a tension of contradiction which cannot be easily resolved.
With Anderson, we can perhaps say his worlds are arranged, where the concern over arrangement is central to the conflict within his films. His characters and world are ordered and this is where the conflict of the films play out as the characters react to and try and escape or redefine the order, and by extension, try to get beyond Anderson’s reach. And that is why so many artists create, it isn’t about making a prescriptive argument for “our” society or to make “Art”, as if Art was something that could be made to order anyway, (in fact it is often the case that the attempt to make Art will lead you farther away from it as profundity to order usually reads like banal propaganda), artists generally start with material, formal, and financial concerns and then see where those concerns will take them. If they do plan an “about” it usually isn’t going to be as critics speak of it but something more tangible or personal to them and it will be shaped by the way they see and form their “worlds”.
Edit: Oh, and that, by the way, is part of the reason why I think purely formal analysis of films is a mistake. If one doesn’t look at the interaction between character concerns and the world that has been created and tries to just base their appreciation on the form, it is valuing the world over those who live in it, in a manner of speaking. To appreciate Ozu’s formal compositions or Kubrick’s control without consideration of the cost of control or composure, one kinda misses the central conflict being expressed.
Anderson’s characters seem to actually conceive of their stories in terms of a construct rather than something lived in the moment…..Anderson’s characters “think” in something closer to metanarrative terms.
Sort of a version of Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung.
Richard E. Aquila on Schopenhauer: The world that we perceive is a “presentation” of objects in the theatre of our own mind; the observers, the “subject,” each craft the show with their own stage managers, stagehands, sets, lighting, code of dress, pay scale, etc. The other aspect of the world, the Will, or “thing in itself,” which is not perceivable as a presentation, exists outside time, space, and causality.
And just to further muddy the waters and connect Darjeeling to Schopenhauer: Indology