Recently I watched the purported "cult classic," Kicking & Screaming - no, not Will Ferrell's 2nd-worst film (Superstar is first, obviously), but Noah Baumbach's first film. You may recall Baumbach as the man who helped make Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic his least-successful (and yet somehow my favorite) film to date. Baumbach's influence on The Life Aquatic can clearly be seen upon viewing Kicking & Screaming, as his characters inhabit a sequence of barely-connected scenes that ultimately ends in a hope-crushing realization, relieved only by ignoring the present and looking wistfully upon the past. If you think about it, it's kind of like a Death Cab for Cutie album. Small wonder, then, that Death Cab seems to be under the influence of this mid-90s indie film. And I'm pretty sure I've got proof.
Exhibit A: Plans
Ben Gibbard stated that the title of their major-label debut was the punchline of his favorite joke: "How do you make God laugh?" "You make plans." This joke is told in a bar by a bartender/10th-year college student. If you feel like you've been learning some of the same lessons for a decade, you might be Ben Gibbard.
Exhibit B: "You Can Do Better Than Me"
This song, off DCFC's latest album Narrow Stairs, begins with the line, "I'm starting to feel we stay together out of fear of being alone." This sentiment is echoed almost verbatim in the film, except instead of being about lovers, it is addressed to the group of friends who can't seem to move on without each other.
Exhibit C: "Bad Reputation"
This song is played over the end credits, and was covered by Death Cab for Cutie for the iTunes pre-order of Plans. Tenuous connection? Sure, but when you see the movie as a Death Cab fan it's like the final piece of the puzzle, which brings us to
Exhibit D: Tone
You'll need to see the movie to understand what I mean, but the overall tone of the movie is so much like a Death Cab record that it's eerie. There are definitely moments of playfulness and humor, cleverness and wit, but a lot of it deals with the hardship and sometimes futility of life. Stating it like that makes both the movie and the band come across as much more dour than they actually are, but they share a spirit of wistfulness, whimsy, and skepticism. Lines from the film such as "Even though all 618 of us were wearing caps and gowns out there today, I couldn't help but think it was a coincidence that we were both wearing black," and " I'm nostalgic for conversations I had yesterday. I've begun reminiscing events before they even occur. I'm reminiscing this right now." can easily be imagined to be lines from Gibbard's pen.
I understand that these could all just be major coincidences, but I doubt it. The feeling of discovering someone's inspiration (I have yet to find any stated connection between the two) is actually kinda awkward. And ultimately, does it even matter? Probably not, but if you listen to any of the characters in Baumbach's film or Gibbard's songs, they'd probably support me.