DONNIE DARKO (DIRECTOR’S CUT), Richard Kelly (2001/2004)

Years have passed since this film was released, and Donnie Darko has become one of these modern sci-fi classics everyone who has watched it has something to say about it.

Categorized sometimes as horror or  even surrealist drama, the truth is that it’s actually a modern  story of love, truth and sacrifice for the others, it really has values underneath, which probably people feel quite enthusiastic about.

It’s late 1980’s. Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal)  is a weird teenager who’s under medication for his apparent schizophrenia. He’s got imaginary friends, sleepwalks, and suffers from hallucinations in certain occasions. This time, a scary rabbit named Frank  commands  him to wake up and tells him 28 days,  6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds remain till the end of the world unless he manages to defy space-time issues and set  the world in order. Luckily, thanks to his night walk, he survives an unexplained  plane turbine crash just in his bedroom, something close to a miracle.

From that moment, he will fight for saving the world, even though nobody is aware of it, investigating time worms guided by Roberta Sparrow’s essay called The Philosophy of Time Travel, receiving visits and messages from the rabbit, facing the hypocrisy reigning his high school encouraged especially by Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze), and falling in love with the new girl in town, Gretchen Ross (Jena Malone).

Donnie Darko, is a modern model of anti-hero, an eccentric kid with apparent mental issues, under medication, everybody looks at him as a complete nutter. He actually is a freak, in terms of attitude against falseness and “correct” values, for some he’s the crazy guy in the neighborhood, for others the rebel bloke against rules, and for his parents, their beloved son who is in trouble and try to help him by paying a shrink, completely unable to understand him. Darko is characterized for featuring contradictory attitudes: he’s shy but brave, cold but tender, protective but afraid, he always talks about stuff not everybody understands, shocking his friends and family all the time. The kind of guy some show  respect to, but many  others are afraid of. Guess audience would have a more positive view for the guy, as at the end of the day he’s a fair guy suffering a lot, trying to discover how the world could be saved, no matter whether  it deserves it or not. Darko is charismatic and strong character enough to stand the weight of the story perfectly. Not quite a fan of Gyllenhaal’s acting, I must admit his performance as Donnie Darko is absolutely impressive.

Rest of characters turn around our hero, and all of them, not emphasized over the rest, have issues which help to create this atmosphere of the world tearing apart: Gretchen and her false identity in order to get away from her abusive father, Samantha Darko who only cares for dancing and win the talent contest, Elizabeth Darko supporting Dukakis, Cherita bullied by Darko’s friends for her Chinese condition…

And suddenly Jim Cunningham, the perfect man in his forties women fall in love at his feet, supported by the stupid hysteric miss Farmer, with his theories about fear and love, trying to brainwash everyone to squeeze money from them. Everything subjected to these two concepts, with no middle options, inhibiting natural human reactions is nonsense, and Darko is constantly mocking of these cheap lessons about life publicly.

Cunningham reminds me of Tom Cruise in Magnolia, ok, different kind of discourse, obviously, but another public figure, powerful and popular, everyone pays attention to, and in private, having even more issues than people they’re apparently advising solutions for a better life.

Frank the Rabbit is a total mystery. To start with, he’s actually a real character, in fact is Elizabeth’s special friend, although Donnie and he never get to see each other until it’s too late. As a human being, Frank is not very outstanding, however as the rabbit, means  both the starting point and the end of this story, the axis of the plot. The distorted voice and that frightening mask are stressing. You could think of him as a troublemaker, however Frank saves Donnie from a terrible death, for the purpose of saving the world. But why is Darko the chosen one? Maybe because the kid is strangely sensitive to  different dimension events…

This Director’s Cut is really interesting thanks to the insertion of Roberta Sparrow’s (aka Lady Death) The Philosophy of Time Travel. With this book and quoting several affirmations from different chapters, one can understand what’s going on much better.

As commented earlier, what I was moved most with, was the feeling that Donnie sacrifices himself on behalf of the world survival, he’s able to give up everything he loves or stands for. Think about it, would you sacrifice for your neighbor or  the stupid asshole who gets on your nerves at work? Yes, you might do it for the person you love most, still, I wouldn’t commit for the rest of the world, I would give my life for my most beloved ones or so I think.

One of the most commented features related to this film apart  from the story is the soundtrack. You realize it was carefully selected, songs are linked to the story most time, and are total and amazing 80’s hit. To be honest, I used to like INXS when I was a kid, but since I first saw Donnie Darko I became a total fan. Needless  to say Tears for Fears Head over the Heels or Gary Jules’ cover of Mad World, and those sort of videoclips are enjoyable to the max.

One more thing I would like to highlight: Richard Kelly was 26 years old when this film was released, amazing, huh? His opera prima was epic, but unfortunately, I think he will never be able to deliver something so personal and beautiful.

Donnie Darko, is in top position of my favorite movies ever, and belongs to my top 5 of the past decade. I strongly recommend it to everyone all the time, usually with good feedback from people who end up following my advice, so please, please, go and watch it, and if you feel like, then post your comments here, I would love to know your opinion.

One Response to “DONNIE DARKO (DIRECTOR’S CUT), Richard Kelly (2001/2004)”

  1. donnie saves his world not the world and that is the point, each of us like you say would sacrifice ourselves for someone we love and once you are living in unity thats everyone surely? donnie just does what he knows is right and that is to ensure that gretchen doesnt die, he does…. as for cunningham not getting his house burnt down and the school not flooded etc that speaks to donnie not interfering except in those circumstances where his own actions were the cause of the problem, i.e. going with Gretchen which leads to her turning up at his house for the halloween party and subsequently getting run over… if he’d never met her she wud have survived hence the ending? love your review too and the film is awesome, watched it thinking when is something going to happen and what will it be ooerr hehehe 😉

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