Sunday, July 10, 2005

Warning. Spoilers Ahead - Donnie Darko 

Ok, now I have seen the film, Donnie Darko twice in three days. I watched it once, then decided I had to watch it again with some other folks who I could talk with about it afterwards. It was just too bizarre of a film to let go.

I've done some thinking about it now and have come up with my take on it. It's very complicated (the concept, not my take), but then again, anything dealing with multiverses is.

There are two timelines going on at once, running parallel. One we will call the Death timeline and one the Life timeline. This is done to avoid calling one reality and one alternate, because they are both real, both possible. In the Life timeline, Donnie survives the accident with the turbine. Conversely, in the Death timeline, he does not. Things are moving merrily along in the Death timeline when the accident occurs. All we see of this timeline is the very beginning and the very end of the film. Donnie is crushed by the falling jet engine. He and Gretchen never meet, but both Gretchen and Frank are alive. However, the jet turbine came through the portal from the Life timeline. It is what the Sparrow book called the "artifact", though, for the life of me, I can't determine its religious symbolism as the book suggests it has. (Text of the book available on donniedarko.com, (passwords: smurf, breath, rose) but you have to go through a hell of a lot of trouble to access it.) So, how did it get there?

In the Life timeline, Frank is murdered by Donnie. Frank obviously would prefer that this does not happen. In order to prevent his death, he has to ensure that Donnie "rights" things, aligns the space-time so that when the two timelines converge via the black hole that is created by their divergence, that it is the Life timeline that is destroyed and the Deah timeline that survives and continues. Via the portals, I'm assuming created by the black hole, Frank somehow manages to time travel to the Life Timeline and is wearing his halloween costume, because that is what he was wearing when he was killed in the Life timeline in the future from his perspective. By means of his manipulations, he shows Donnie how many people have to be destroyed in order for him to survive, making Donnie wish he had been killed, so that he will do what is in his power to "purge" the Life timeline events, when the moment of re-convergence comes. The deal is sealed with the senseless death of Gretchen, Donnie's girlfriend. The boys in the pantyhose masks are at the house to ensure that events are set in motion that will lead to her death. Explain it by saying they were there to steal the jewels said to be in her house. That really doesn't matter though. As the book says, the Manipulated Living have no choice in the parts they play. Gretchen dies, and the black hole opens. When this happens, one of the parallel universes will be annihilated. Donnie makes the decision to travel back in time, via the black hole portal, to the moment when the jet engine falls though his room, but this time he will not move. He will be killed, thereby saving his girlfriends life. Donnie's actions seem to be selfless and Frank's seem to be selfish. I'm not sure if they actually are or not.

Questions remaining. Why does Frank call Donnie out in the beginning at all? It seems to me that if he left well enough alone, the Life timeline would never have the chance to exist.

What role does the physics teacher play? It seems he knows more than he lets on. Why does he have the book?

Does God play a role? Is there a God in the world of "Donnie Darko"? I read one commentary that stated the film was the Gospel: Donnie was Jesus, Frank was God, Gretchen was Donnie's 'Last Temptation' (film was playing at the Cineplex)/Mary Magdalene, Donnie's friends the abandoning apostles. I think this idea is silly, but someone has suggested it. I'm not sure God exists in the world of "Donnie Darko". The end of the film makes a poignant claim that those who seem to have it all together are the ones who can't sleep at night and those who acknowledge life's challenges and difficulties and accept their existence are the ones who are content when they are alone with their thoughts.

What role does Graham Greene's short story, "The Destructors" play? Has anyone read it? What is Graham Greene all about? Likewise, Richard Adams' "Watership Down"? It's been a long time since I read that!

In the middle of the Life timeline sequences, does Donnie know he has died in the parallel universe? I think he does. He looks at his girlfriend directly in class when he explains about the rabbits of Watership Down and how rabbits only want to "fuck and fuck and fuck until they die." Also, in the auditorium with Cunningham presenting, he travels forward in time and says so.

Where does Donnie go and what is happening to him when he somnambulates? How many parallel universes are there and how many torment him? How much are we not seeing?

I think the movie is about selfishness and selflessness and how both have their consequences, but that, unlike Donnie, it is not given to us to know the consequences before they happen. This film was an experiment, a chance to see consequences before they happen, and to say that not choice, no path through this life is without sacrifice. Even if it is just the sacrifice of the other choice, of what could have been. I think the director is trying to say, "Look. Here is how things are. If you don't like it, tough. Cause look here, here's how thing could have been. And you know what? In both places its pain and loss. That's life. The secret is to find beauty and life amidst that. I don't know how to do that, but I think it has something to do with selflessness." At least, that's what I think. Now I've spent too much time on this and am going to bed.



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