The Life Aquatic and the number 11

I just got back from seeing the newest Wes Anderson movie, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. It was pretty good and definitely had the Wes Anderson trademarks: the un-fatherly father figure, the son without a role model, the rampant use of Futura.

I don’t want to give anything away, so let me just get to the point: all throughout the movie there are tons of references to the number 11. Some don’t seem to fit in at all with what’s going on and seem to have no real relevance to anything. I’m hoping that maybe someone can figure it out and clue me in.

Trying not to give any spoilers, here’s a list of things I noticed (there are more I think, but I can’t remember them all!):

  • Owen Wilson says about the shark: “I’ve got a feeling that we could see it from 111 feet in the air” (or something close)
  • The crewmember’s kid (German kid) is 11 years old(?)
  • In the sub the reporter says randomly about her baby “In 12 years he’ll be 11 1/2”
  • The last bowie song has the lyrics “I’m up on the eleventh floor / And I’m watching the cruisers below”

I also thought there was some mention of a “room 111” towards the beginning, but I’m not sure.

So what’s the big deal with the number 11? Someone give me a clue.

UPDATE (12-22-2004): I posted a thread on IMDB about this. No responses with any good guesses, but someone did point out that the Royal Tenenbaums lived at 111 Archer ave.

31 thoughts on “The Life Aquatic and the number 11

  1. a little OT but glad to be able to express how cool some of the deconcept stuf was/is – ive been a big fan since i came across the click 3 points competition!


  2. 11? Is that the new 23?

    Anderson is smart enough to know about 23, just curious why he avoided it.

    (Burroughs and COIL and PTV and Acker and just about every other post-punk used/drew power from it…and I’ll wager that Cory and Xeni are both usig ole 23 right now.


  3. They say that noticing the number 11 in everyday circumstances is a sign that you are gifted with wisdom and extraordinary perception of things physic and/or spiritual. (i.e looking at a clock when it says 11:11 or 1:11 etc. without planning it) This sounds to me like it is a nod to that belief.

  4. PT Anderson put several references to 82 in Magnolia. From the same page, some info on 23:

    The number 23 seems to have significance as well. Sydney Barringer jumps on March 23. The first time, when Rose Gator talks to Jimmy on the phone, the hands of the clock in the background are on 2 & 3. Frank Mackey tells his seminarians to turn to page 23 in their white books & Earl Partridge was married to Lilly for 23 years. It is, after all, a number of great significance to western occultists & conspiracy theorists – both of whom greatly emphasize ‘coincidence’ in their writings. William S. Burroughs was fascinated by the 23 enigma and planted a plethora of 23’s in his writings. You can read more over at Cut 23. The counter-culture/occultist/conspiracy writer Robert Anton Wilson is also a subscriber to the notion that the number 23 has some cosmic significance.

  5. The number 11, if I remember correctly, is one of “magickal expansion” in Crowleyana. Being a fan of Robert Anton Wilson (who introduced me and many others to Crowley), 11 and 23 are notable.

  6. Wes Anderson thinks the ideal age is 11 and a half. That’s a line in “The Life Aquatic”. It fits in with the boyish/child-like/innocence that is a theme in all his movies. I think all his male characters just want to be 11 and a half again. I think Wes Anderson wishes he were 11 and a half.

  7. Wes Anderson thinks the ideal age is 11 and a half.

    Where did you hear this? Is there an interview where he states this? Do you know the reasoning behind it, or is it just some random strange movie director thing?

  8. I couldn’t find any interviews or articles where Anderson says this is his favorite age, but a few do allude to it. Here are some quotes with links.

    “After sitting through the extravagant adventures that Anderson cooked up for daring oceanographer Steve Zissou (Murray) and his motley crew, one begins to suspect that eleven and a half is also the age of Anderson’s target audience.” –

    “But mostly, like all Wes Anderson movies, it’s about being 11 1/2-it’s a recurring motif, anyway-sometime around the late ’70s, an age-era axis favored by Anderson and at least partly attributable to his current age of 35.” –Philippine Daily Inquirer

  9. i am the eleventh poster.

    i am mystical.

    geoff’s comments don’t count. or i’m not mystical. so ignore his.

    i am the eleventh poster.

  10. michael jordan’s number? 23.
    magic johnson’s number? 32. (23 backwards).
    also, note that both have the initials “mj,” as does michael jackson and probably myriad others, as well.

  11. On the Subject of 23, I’ve never thought that R.A.W attached any special significance to it, other than his explanation that if you constantly look for *any* number and are willing to jump through some numerological hoops to derive it, you will begin to see it everywhere. R.A.W simply chose to use 23 as an example of this phenomena.

  12. R.A.W.’s thing was the ‘Law of Fives’, whereby a sufficiently determined person could find the number five related to anything. The most common example in the books is that an event is related to 23, which is 2 and 3, which add together to be 5.

    Or in other words… anything that can be related to the numbers 14, 23, 32, 41, 4 (1 * 4), 6 (2 * 3), 25 (5 * 5), 3125 (5 ^ 5), and so on, is part of the Law of Fives.

    The Principa Discordia explains…

  13. 11 is 1 and 1 together, or next to each other. Father and son on equal footing as the father is not a father to his son, they are equal men. One man and one man. Next to each other, you have 11.

  14. In the sub at the end of the movie, there were 11 1/2 passengers (if you count the fetus as .5) in a sub that’s safety limit was posted as 6.

  15. As a complete aside, what is going on with the number 22 and sport?

    Football (Soccer to you dudes): 22 players
    Snooker: 22 balls on the table before you break
    Cricket: 22 yards between wickets
    Darts: 22 scoring points (1-20 and outer and inner bull)
    Golf: The original St Andrews (oldest golf course in the world) had 22 holes.
    Formula One: Until last year, had 22 drivers.
    Rugby: Bit tenuous this one but they play rugby in 15’s and 7’s. Add them, 22!

    Eh! What’s that all about!

  16. At one point in the movie, Ned mentions something about $111,000 dollars I seem to recall. Also, I am not sure but I think there are 11 people in the yellow submarine at the end of the movie.

    Coincidentally, 11 is my favorite number and Wes Anderson is my favorite director.

  17. I’m glad someone else noticed this! I have been wondering about 11 1/2 since I saw the film last week. As well as the comments listed by other posters, Ned Plimton has been a member of the Zissou society since 11 1/2. Also, Steve Zissou’s favorite age (and one he perhaps never grew out of?) was 11 1/2. Also “Steve Zissou” and “Ned Plimpton” contain eleven letters each. I’m also inclined to agree with the James Joyce theory.

  18. Does anyone know if there is some significance to the Date October 12 in Anderson’s films?

  19. Remembrance Day or armistice is celebrated by australians on Nov 11th or 11/11 and celebrated on the 11th hour.
    At 11 am on 11 November 1918 the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years continuous
    warfare. The moment when hostilities ceased on the Western Front became universally associated with the
    remembrance of those who had died in the war.

  20. As for me number 11 have been my fav one for a couple of years. It’s like a strong magnet for me its horizontal and verical symmetry. I dunno why, but I really addcted to 11. That’s why I’ve found this entry in google. And I have to say it was interesting to read this one. Cheeers.

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