Donnie Darko


Lynchian? Perhaps this is the only way in which a summary of Donnie Darko can be compressed into just one word. This film is an absolute mish-mash of varying styles and genres, but has the added bonus of succeeded in its amalgamation of styles which quite frankly makes it one of the great films of not only the 21st Century but perhaps in cinematic history. Am I over-hyping this film? Perhaps not nearly enough.


A surreal blend of dark humour, science fiction, teen drama and high school angst, Donnie Darko is a mind tripping, thought out journey through the life of one adolescent as he comes to terms not only with the arduous task that is puberty, parents, school and friends, but that his perceived delusions and eccentricities will make him the only one that can save the universe from complete destruction. This may sound like a garbled mess but it works wonderfully due to the way that the director, Richard Kelly, manages to tell convincingly all aspects of this story in a way where nothing feels, forced, nerdish or out of place.


Guiding Donnie through the time ridden paradox that is this film is be-musingly a six foot tall bunny rabbit named Frank. While Franks identity may become somewhat clearer throughout the course of the film, his presence works on several levels (as indeed does the film). Not only is he a mental figmentation but he is also a manifestation of the teenage angst that raged (or will rage, depending) inside all of us. The need to rebel and break free of rules, moulds and confines to cope with the fear that comes with having to grow up. On top of this there are many referential notes to make with Frank, that first and foremost of "Watership Down", which itself is present in the film make reference to how Donnie and Frank mirror their rabbit counterparts fiver and the spectre that haunts him with tales of the worlds demise.


There are more obvious analogies, the simplest of which is Alice In Wonderland and how the White Rabbit provides the means for the hero to return to where they are supposed to be. Unfortunately, it's far too difficult to go into too much detail without having to ingrain a spoiler at the top, because many of the films key notations are inward and secular, as they constantly repeat themselves in varying formats, but by the same token provide a film which can be interpreted by all viewers in different and personal ways.


Donnie Darko succeeds because it gets the small things right. The made for cinema cut is slightly more Lynchian than the directors cut due to the absence of some notable moments and thereby lacking the continuity, and so I'd have to recommend the Directors Cut due to it being somewhat more coherent (although that's not essential) and providing a deeper explanation as to the events which transpire. Moments where Donnie is playing on an Arcade machine, and the importance of placebo's are key plot moments but are lost on the viewer without the Directors Cut. But whichever version the subtleties of plot and character developments keep the viewer hooked. The interesting twists and turns of the story whether it be human drama or science fiction are exceptionally well written and perfectly acted. Suffice to say this film works on more levels than one, and will leave a deeply profound affect on all those that want it to.


Donnie Darko was credited (if all the critical acclaim and general love by all fans of cinema wasn't enough) as being in the top ten of fifty films you must see before you die, and to be honest I couldn't have phrased it better myself. There is little to say without spoiling the film for those that haven't seen it and there is little I can say which hasn't already been said about this film. It is for want of a better phrase a modern day masterpiece, an exercise in cinematic achievement highlighting an ability to tell stories which many thought was all but lost. Few films are worthy of pedestals, and while the amount by which tens are brandished around on IMDb, few films are worthy of a ten. Donnie Darko deserves it all. Maximum.