‘Donnie Darko’, in its own little way, is a masterpiece from the aboriginal writer-director Richard Kelly, which flopped at the Box Office so stupendously, it made people stretch out on the country road, with hoardings “Middlesex ahead.” Released only a few weeks post 9/11, the conspicuously cerebral sci-fi warded off it’s audience with a passenger jet-disaster scene in the movie, but made headlines with critics who symbolized the rise of sci-fi and religion through ‘Donne Darko’. Since then, it has garnered a huge cult following. But still the big question remains: What is Donnie Darko about? Well, we are here to offer that explanation.
An Unconventional Film
‘Donnie Darko’ is a film the viewing experience of which put me in a deep state of confusion and cerebral contemplation as to what conspired, yet in all its hazy confusion and mindfulness, a sci-fi nerd inside me was extremely satiated at the entire two hours and fourteen minutes spent. This is an experience that is far from perfect, even flawed in a lot of places, but it is driven by an idea so ingenious, the power of which virtually propels the entire film through its runtime, you have little choice but to submit and go along for the ride, and watch in awe as you see a rubber reality unfold like never before.
I am sure that your feelings upon having watched the film must have been synonymous with what is stated above, but let’s face it: we are lying to ourselves if we didn’t almost immediately rush to the internet to search for answers to pining questions relating to the film’s plot, simmering lest they settle down. I am guilty of doing the same years ago when I first watched it, and that beautiful state of confusion notwithstanding, I was just as bemused as the first time, which is what brings me to write this explainer. So without further ado, I attempt to decipher this amazingly bizarre film while running a parallel check inside my head. Read on.
Rather than taking the conventional approach of going through what happens in the film chronologically and then attempting to deconstruct it, I’m going to try to decipher the film by going through various chapters of the fictional book ‘The Philosophy of Time Travel’, that within the confines of this film’s ‘universe’ is authored by one Roberta Sparrow also nicknamed in the film as Grandma Death, later revealed to have taught science at Middlesex High School, and handed to Donnie by his current Science teacher, Kenneth Monnitoff. Luckily for us, there is a director’s cut available which is much clearer about the events in the film along with accompanying excerpts from the fictionally authored book, which I will use here and derive parallels between them and the characters/events in ‘Donnie Darko’. Let’s begin.
The Tangent Universe
The Primary Universe is fraught with great peril. War, plague, famine and natural disaster are common. Death comes to us all. The Fourth Dimension of Time is a stable construct, though it is not impenetrable. Incidents when the fabric of the Fourth Dimension becomes corrupted are incredibly rare. If a Tangent Universe occurs, it will be highly unstable, sustaining itself for no longer than several weeks. Eventually it will collapse upon itself, forming a black hole within the Primary Universe capable of destroying all existence.