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Donnie Darko

I hope this makes sense...

WARNING: "Donnie Darko" spoilers below

I’ve watched Donnie Darko six times now. Every time I watch it, I see something else that I had missed before. I’m not sure if I’ve figured out what is going on, I think I have, yet I’m not positive. One thing certainly helped, and that’s the scene titles on the DVD, I’ll be using those titles in my definitions. I’ll put them in (parentheses).

The movie begins with a confused Donnie laying alongside the road up on (Carpathian Ridge). It makes me wonder if he was being manipulated at this point, but it is never really implied. Donnie rides his bike back to town, and on the way passes an orange Trans Am (Frank?). We later find out that Frank does indeed drive an orange Trans Am, and is the boyfriend of Donnie’s sister, Elizabeth.

Later that evening the clock chimes its midnight hour, there’s a storm raging outside. Later we’ll discover that it’s actually a (Time Storm) raging with a wormhole opening up and with it, creating a (Tangent Universe). It’s like another dimension layered on top of our own. I believe it’s the entire town that’s caught in this alternate universe, with the rest of the world still being able to relate to it. I mean, the FAA gets involved, right? I’m a little unclear on this part, quite obviously. I think that when they show the close up of the grandfather clock, that’s when the rift actually transports the inhabitants of the town to the (Tangent Universe). They’re all stuck in it, and when Frank tells Donnie at the golf course that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds, he’s telling him that’s how long he’s got to get things in order before the (Tangent Universe) collapses, disintegrates, whatever, it’s never disclosed exactly what will happen.

Okay, I think that this next segment of the film is extremely important in cluing us in on what has happened, and what exactly the implications are because of it. Donnie comes home to find out that Frank has saved his life. He stands outside watching as the pull the engine out of the house, and there’s a scene where he stares at the spiral on the engine. That’s the clue to the whole film right there I think. The spiral signifies the time rift that they are all caught in. It spirals onto itself, beginning and ending pre-determined. This same jet engine already exists and will fall again later, repeating, concluding, and beginning the cycle again.

Donnie doesn’t understand the message or know that he’s not in his own dimension, but as the story progresses he starts to understand. Frank is used by ??? to deliver the knowledge so Donnie can set things in motion, albeit unwittingly at times, but he’s the one who is chosen to accomplish all the goals needed to get that jet engine back to the wormhole on time. Man, I can wrap my mind around this until I get a nervous tick in my eye, time traveling concepts coupled with spiritualism, not the easiest thing to grasp. Frank asks Donnie if he believes in time travel. I don’t know if Frank is a ghost, angel, or disguised alien, but he’s obviously been killed. So when he asks Donnie that question, I don’t believe he’s trying to tell him that he’s traveling in time, rather that Donnie has the capability to do it himself. He’s trying to teach him as well as guiding him. Is it God with His Angels, or are they good willed Aliens? The film doesn’t really ever tell us that, though Donnie does struggle with his faith, or lack thereof, but he also mentions ‘them’ numerous times, and the message in front of the statue does say, “They Made Me Do It”.

All I really know, is that everyone is in a (Fourth Dimension), and they are all being used by ‘them’ to guide Donnie. Each and every one of the central characters gives him some clue as to what’s going on, and to unwittingly give him clues as to the secrets of time travel. He sees the ‘manipulators’ using the people when he has the ‘visions’ of the (Liquid Spear’s). He follows his own numerous times, and he begins to understand, with the help of Roberta Sparrow’s book, the true significance of his ‘visions’. That they’re not visions at all! They’re real, and everything that he’s seeing is real. He’s not disturbed at all, more that he’s been gifted with some kind of special sight. At this point all he cares about is figuring out the truth.

There are different times through out the movie where it seems that one character or another show some sign that they sense something is not quite right, with the exception of Donnie. Donnie is being ‘allowed’ to see what is really going on. This is where I have a little trouble. There is not one single point during the entire movie where we learn what it is that is manipulating Donnie and the people around him. There are implications of God himself, but we are not given a perspective that puts us in the know. It would be easier to think that they are ghosts or aliens, other than God. Because, if it is indeed God, then there is the whole ‘free will’ topic again. Is it really pre-destiny? Everything that Donnie does with the guidance of Frank and the others, can he choose not to? He tells Dr. Fisher that he has to follow instructions, but then at another time he implies that he only has to do it out of obligation to Frank, for saving his life. I think if Donnie veers of the path laid out to him by ???, then he will doom the inhabitants that are stuck with him in this new (Tangible Universe). It will collapse with everyone trapped inside it. The future has already happened in the new (Tangible Universe), Frank is already dead, and the jet engine fell, so we know that that’s true. That must mean that Donnie has never had a choice??? Gahhhh….. <twitch> Okay, I’m alright now.

Near the end, when Donnie receives his final clue from Miss Pomeroy, with her cellar door, and he follows the clue to Frank’s death, he understands everything. 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds the (Tangible Universe) will end, it’s future already played out. But because of all the people who slipped out of their dimension into this alternate one, it’s future was put into jeopardy. They could have played out the future differently, that’s why they were manipulated into helping Donnie make sure things played out the way it needed to, in order for that jet engine to make it to its destiny. Sigh, it has to be God, it’s the only thing that really makes any sense. Earlier in the movie though, it’s mentioned that if God controlled time, then he also controls the future and free will. That would explain it being such a huge thing that Donnie has actually been let in on the truth. Gahhhh….. <twitch> <twitch> Crap, it’s getting worse.

I think the only real choice Donnie had was at the end. He could have chosen not to stay in his bed I think, but he felt it was better that way, and he was ready for God. Or maybe it was his reward. The reason I believe that the entire township were all in the (Fourth Dimension) with Donnie, is also because of the ending. When it pans across all the characters with that terribly sad song playing in the background, we see them all waking up, remembering it all, only to have it slip away. There’s the clue earlier when Donnie and Gretchen are talking about dreams and how they fade. That’s what happens to them all. They went into the (Fourth Dimension) with Donnie, lived those 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds, some dying, some having there lives torn apart, all experiencing something painful…just to have it all go away and to start over. Except this time with no Donnie. Donnie made sure that it would be different.

The thing with Donnie Darko is that it is totally open to different interpretations. If it was allowed to be a three hour movie, then I think things would be more conclusive. As it is, there are too many things left unknown, but maybe that’s its real appeal.