Donnie Darko 2001

The film directed by  Richard Kelly is a confusing, surreal journey which follows teenager Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) through the idea of what if; after a freak accident Donnie starts exploring the idea of the universe and time travel. Life is all a coincidence and when its our time to leave then thats the way it is.

At the beginning of the film Donnie who has had some troubles in the past is led outside but what can only describe as some kind of surreal demon bunny who is named “Frank” he then tells Donnie that the universe will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds.The accident happens when this is all happening from the screen but whats interesting is the fact that the jet engine has landed in his bedroom and would of definitely killed him if he hadn’t of been led away by Frank.

The rest of the film pretty much follows the same pattern of the complete surrealism and in depth story line of Donnie Darko. I’ve seen the film many times; I remember watching it as a young kid and think deeply into it after the idea of a primary and tangent world that are both featured in the film. The film itself actually plays mostly in the tangent world after the accident that was meant to kill Donnie and follows him closing in on journey both falling in love and finding his meaning and significance. The film finds a climatic ending with expectance when Donnie realises his fate. From what Donnie has learnt throughout the film he can now change both his future and the primary world.

Donnie is a interesting character to analyse because throughout the film the audience is unsure of Franks reality and whether or not Frank is actually a hallucination of paranoid schizophrenia that only has one type of existence in this world. The main comparison for this is the fact that Frank was actually someone which is shown at the end of the film; Elizabeth’s (Maggie Gyllenhaal) boyfriend Frank (James Duval) in one scene after a Halloween party actually appears dressed as the Demon Bunny but in costume. Donnie Kills Frank after he accidentally kills Gretchen Donnie’s new found love. Frank in this Tangent universe is now actually dead and not just a figment of Donnie’s schizophrenia.


Frank. The Theatre Scene 

Frank the creature that seemingly seems to be a figment of Donnie’s imagination is dark and confusing; in these hallucination’s he hardly ever speaks in the film instead his unspoken words are shown in gesture and from a already understanding Donnie who seems to be understanding with him.

This scene above is the theatre for me is iconic to the film.  The scene starts off with an already creepy theme to it with the arrival of Halloween but has the soft touch from the teenage couple holding hands which is Donnie and Gretchen entering the cinema. The cinema’s lighting is dark with the film brightening in the back ground; the music of the film their watching seems to be that or a horror narrative with the shot being of a old dark up towards a wooden shack. Frank then appears by Gretchen’s side. Gretchen herself is fast asleep, her youthful makeup free face is half lit by the film on screen. Frank dressed in his metallic demon bunny mask looks silently at Donnie who does the same until they continue to watch the film. Donnie then speaks the line half smirking “Why do you wear that stupid mask?” Frank then replies “Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?” Donnie then say’s “I can’t take it off” They then look at each other silently for a moment before Frank unmasks himself for Donnie to see for the first time. We don’t see Frank at first as the shot quickly reverts back to Donnie. “What happened to your eye?” the audience then knows something isn’t right with Frank what is he? Is he deformed? The music is dramatic throughout with the background film still projecting. Frank is shown as a young man with a large wound to one of his eyes.

The makeup for this scene is interesting with the special effects making the eye look like a gun shot wound and being extremely inflamed and pulsing. It’s straight to witness Donnie’s reaction because he is still smirking to himself as he looks away; it’s almost as if he’s possessed or see’s Frank is a completely different way to what the audience is witnessing. Frank explains that his name was that of this fathers and grandfathers he looks slightly amused at this comment which is a clear reference to what we witness near the end of the film with Frank and his fathers gun.

Donnie’s expression only seems to change when Frank show’s him a portal on the cinema’s screen; there is now a recognition of what Donnie is meant to do and why Frank is there. There are different levels to Donnie’s mission with the shot of the eye on film and Frank commenting “Burn it to the ground” referencing a pedophile living in town.


Donnie Darko is full of plot twists and turns that is witnessed by the Audience the film has a open view on different theories and the existences and ideals of different universes being effected by our actions.

I have watched and used Donnie Darko as Inspiration from the idea of Donnie’s ‘Schizophrenia’ and the idea of Frank that watches over Donnie and affects his way of thinking; in my own film I want to include this surrealism with the idea of using another character that the audience can decide on whether their figments of the imagination or actually real. The film idea has changed for me after researching a changing the story boarding, I believe my film story works better as a fashion film rather then a girl in a mask going to work.


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