The Ideological Way of Saving the World, Donnie Darko Style

There is one movie in my life that I will never fully understand but it’s okay….it is one of those that is not meant to understand but to question. I love a good suspense story but this movie takes things to a whole other psychology/science-fiction dimension. For the dozen or so time I re-watched Donnie Darko. This movie is so…unique, demented, complex, intriguing…and more importantly it is a never-ending puzzle.

At first you see this extremely intelligent boy who is obviously bored with everything around him. You’re introduced to a variety of characters with their own interesting personalities. There are so many small moments that you focus on and words that are said  meant to guide or mislead you. Every time I watch it their is something new that I never noticed before. The plot is the biggest puzzle of all even when you notice all the small contexts that are hidden. You wonder, is a schizophrenic, is he stuck in a time circle, is this all a dream….it is hard to say.

There are so many clues leading in various directions. The doctor suggests he is schizophrenic, he sees this bunny rabbit who talks to him. Yet this bunny is someone he sees in the future…so I’m led to believe he is super intelligent and seems to be aware of things before they happen. Time traveling in the end is the main theory. This movie seems to show a butterfly effect. Stating that he was supposed to die in this mysterious worm hole crash. As if in the end it was all his choice to fix things.

The original path we see is Donnie pushing on through life. Meeting a girl who is messed up just like him but for different reasons. He experiences the few pleasures in life. However he does things due to the futuristic bunny that leads to horrible outcomes. One would think exposing a pedophile would be a good thing but in the end it led to most of his family getting on a plane to lead to their death, the very plane in which part of it got sucked into a worm hole to kill Donnie. Not to mention his girl dying in the end because of this freaking Frank, the talking costume-wearing bunny. Really if it wasn’t for this talking bunny-man you wonder if things would of turned out better. Frank is like the serpent speaking to Eve telling her to eat the apple. Donnie listens to Frank and in turn makes things come to an end.

Really let’s think about taking the bunny guide out of the mix. Donnie would have never burned down the pedophiles house which means his parents wouldn’t have gotten on the plane. His sister on the other hand…I guess she would have still been screwed. Donnie probably would have not gone to the old ladies house leading to his girlfriends death because he wouldn’t have Frank telling him to write a letter leading to Donnie’s girlfriend being ran over then Donnie shooting the real Frank. So in that scenario it seems like the daughter would have died. However, Frank being his guide gave Donnie the opportunity to escape the worm hole incident and see what could have been in this twisted guardian way.

So basically, as confusing as this is, I am grasping that Donnie was given a weird moment of life to hold onto. He got to experience things in life before it came to an end. In order for most to be happy the universe decided it would be best for Donnie to leave this world. That people wouldn’t be happier without him but they would be living.

Then the movie says, “No this isn’t enough.” To make things weird in the end they show everyone Donnie had touched in that time period. It was as if everyone had remnants of a memory from that alternate life. Like everything was summed up and packaged in a dream so that Donnie’s venture wouldn’t be for nothing.

Now Donnie could have decided to live that night. He could have decided to leave that room again knowing what would happen. Perhaps even play “groundhog” and change things, try to make it work. However he found that life was better without him. His biggest fear in life was dying alone and in 28 days he found a way to conquer that fear to save those from being tainted by his world.

My favorite line in the movie summed up my feelings toward the character of Donnie Darko:

Gretchen: Donnie Darko? What the hell kind of name is that? It’s like some sort of superhero or something.
Donnie: What makes you think I’m not?

This movie is a classic for showing us butterfly effects and how one little decision changes the outcome of everything. Try as the universe will to predict a future, it can not when all of us have our hands in the same jar changing things at will by impulsive or well-thought out decisions. Donnie Darko is a superhero to me. He used his potential powers of seeing the future and found a way to make the future better even if he couldn’t experience it. That laughter at the end was the depth of understanding that he couldn’t have it all without something coming to an end.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes.

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2 thoughts on “The Ideological Way of Saving the World, Donnie Darko Style

  1. I agree with most of your take here. Two things though (I know this is way after the fact) you’re missing the reason why Samantha Darko (the sister) also isn’t on the doomed plane in the Dead-Donnie scenario. You’re correct that Donnie’s mom wouldn’t have been on the plane because the gym/coach teacher would have taken the team in this alternate reality where she’s not helping the legal defense of the pedophile (or whatever she’s actually trying to do there). However Donnie’s mom calls and leaves a message explaining that she’s taking the dance team home on an EARLIER flight than originally planed. This is because she’s concerned about leaving Donnie alone given his psychological state. So if the mom doesn’t go, she doesn’t leave earlier and if she doesn’t leave early none of the family dies in the plane crash.

    Also Donnie doesn’t necessarily save Gretchen. She may dies/experiences some sort of horrible fate if she doesn’t meet Donnie anyway. There’s that detail about her abusive step-father (the reason she moved to town/changed her name) and the night she dies in the Living-Donnie scenario she comes over because he mother is missing and she’s scared that her step-father has hurt her. So no Donnie, Gretchen may stay at home and maybe gets hurt. Or not, because we never find out what actually happened, even though the details are ominous. Which is interesting in given the superhero lens (which is the read I personally subscribe to).

    Again, otherwise, nice discussion.

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