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Donnie Darko 

"Donnie Darko"

Anybody who has not seen this movie, GO SEE IT!!.

If you have, please, i'd love to hear some interpretations.

October 1, 1988. Donnie is on the hill, looking at the sky, laughing. He rides his bike home and goes to sleep.

October 2, After midnight, Donnie is woken up by Frank-Bunny, saving him from a jet-engine crashing into his room. The jet-engine is actually from October 30, disappearing through a time corruption 28 days into the past. This catastrophic event distorts spacetime and creates a Tangent universe (TU). In the Tangent Universe, Frank-Bunny guides Donnie Darko on a 28 day journey through this alternate tangent dimension to save the universe:

October 30, Tangent universe: After his journey through the TU, which we witness in the movie, the jet-engine breaks off the plane (that his mother and sister are coincidentally on), and from the Tangent universe, Donnie using a wormhole sends it back to the Primary universe (PU), giving it a reason for being. The only object that went back in time from the tangent universe to the primary universe was the jet-engine. In doing so the tangent universe and everything in it is replaced by the primary universe, and time is reset to:

October 2, Primary universe: Jet-engine appears in the Primary Universe (without explanation to everyone but the viewer), Donnie and everyone else are reset and repositioned. Primary-Donnie, back in bed, is killed by the Jet Engine.

The theatrical release of "Donnie Darko" offers very few answers. However, the directors cut DVD is much clearer, with specific explanations about events taken from the book "The Philosophy of Time Travel", written by the character in the movie Roberta Sparrow aka Grandma Death.

The Jet-Engine from the future is the Artifact: "If an Artifact occurs, the Living will retrieve it with great interest and curiosity. Artifacts are formed from metal"

Donnie Darko becomes the Living Receiver: "The Living Receiver is chosen to guide the Artifact into position for its journey back to the Primary Universe." Donnie is chosen because he is the person most affected by the Artifact, hence he is the center of the tangent universe and the only one who can close it. Donnie's job is to return the artifact to the primary universe. "If the Ensurance Trap is succesful, the Living Receiver is left with no choice but to use his Fourth Dimensional Power to send the Artifact back in time into the Primary Universe before the Black Hole collapses upon itself. The paradox that must be created is Donnie sending the engine back in time through a wormhole, to prevent the other paradox, a second jet-engine in the tangent universe.

Frank-Bunny is the Manipulated Dead: "The Manipulated Dead. If a person dies within the Tangent Dimension, they are able to contact the Living Receiver through the Fourth Dimensional Construct...The Manipulated Dead will often set an Ensurance Trap for the Living Receiver to ensure that the Artifact is returned safely to the Primary Universe."

Returning the Artifact: At the focal point in the paradox as the tangent universe winds down, a wormhole (a tear or hole in spacetime) appears. It is at this moment that Donnie must guide the jet engine out of the tangent universe, as we see succesfully preventing the paradox for the first time. Otherwise this tangent is destroyed, reset, and the cycle repeats.

When the Tangent universe is reset: "When the Manipulated awaken from their Journey into the Tangent Universe, they are often haunted by the experience in their dreams. Many of them will not remember. Those who do remember the Journey are often overcome with profound remorse for the regretful actions buried within their Dreams".

The movie "Donnie Darko" is about Donnie's first successful quest in ending the temporal paradox cycle or "time-loop" which he is caught in (not unlike Bill Murray in the movie "Groundhog Day".)

When the engine from the Oct. 30 PU drops (into the past), the PU is gone, the TU is created. Similarly, when the engine in the Oct. 30 TU drops (when the LR/Donnie fails), the TU collapses, and the PU is reset, at the point we see in the beginning of the movie. This is the loop, and it continues until the engine does not drop in the TU because it is sent back to the PU by Donnie. Ending this repeating time-loop is directly how he saves the universe.

At the intro, Donnie is laughing (as if he remembers something that has happened previously) when looking at the sky. This is where the movie begins, and it is also where the tangent is reset and the loop begins when Donnie is NOT successful. Then the loop continues as we see when the engine drops into the past via a time corruption to create the tangent universe. On that previous previous quest , Donnie did not send the artifact back. He remembers something good from his experience in that tangent, and laughs (but not as much as when he laughs and laughs at the end of the movie after he is completely and finally SUCCESSFUL in ending the looping time paradox by preventing the jet-engine from landing where it already exists).

More evidence that Donnie Darko is caught within a repeating time-loop.

1. In the classroom, Donnie states: "Well, earlier in the book, they say destruction is a form of creation. So the fact that they burn the money is ironic; they just wanna see what happens when they tear the world apart." When the world is torn apart in 28 days, when Donnie fails, it is destroyed but then re-created, reset. This is the time-loop, this form of "destruction" when Donnie fails is not unlike the "destruction" of the jet-engine in the PU, re-appearing in the TU (or vice-versa). On a larger scale, the destruction of all current existence, by being repositioned and reset in a different timeline, specifically the Primary Universe when Donnie is laughing on the hill looking at the sky.

2. When the engine crashed through the house, an alternate universe had been created by the falling jet-engine; however Frank-Bunny appeared BEFORE the engine crashed, before the Tangent Universe was created; therefore Frank-bunny must have traveled from another point in time ie a previous tangent universe in the repeating cycle.

3.In his bathroom mirror, Donnie sees Frank and starts stabbing Frank's eye through liquid. Evidence that Donnie knows / remembers something about Frank's injured eye from a previous TU.

4. In the theater when Frank-bunny has taken of his mask, Donnie asks what has happened to his eye. Frank turns his head and stares, and Donnie looks at the screen and starts to smile. Another clue that Donnie has done all of this before in the previous timeloops.

5. The only way Frank could have been killed by Donnie at the end of the movie was if Frank-Bunny had already saved Donnie at the beginning of the movie. The Manipulated Dead Frank-rabbit appears before he himself is assumed to be created when Frank is shot by Donnie, it follows that this Manipulated Dead Frank-rabbit could not have come from the Frank seen in the movie, but the Frank, shot by Donnie, in an unseen previous Tangent Universe. Clearly, this was not the same entity, as an existing thing cannot create itself for the first time. - see - Each different Manipulated Dead entity has expired in the FAILED quest to guide Donnie to "use his Fourth Dimensional Power to send the Artifact back in time into the Primary Universe before the Black Hole collapses upon itself." Frank had to die in a previous tangent before coming back to rescue (and guide) Donnie. Since the tangent universe is eventually destroyed by being reset, this is how Frank initially died and then returned in the next tangent universe as the Manipulated Dead and guided Donnie to eventually shoot him (part of the Ensurance Trap set for Donnie to send the engine back).

6. The repeated time loop theory also explains why many of the central charaters in the film (Mrs Pomeroy, Gretchen, Grandma Death, Dr. Thurman), all seem to have some kind of inside knowledge and a sense of what's going on as though they are all merely acting their lives as in a well rehearsed play, especially Grandma Death and her endless trips back and forth to the mailbox looking for Donnie's letter, and Mrs Pomeroy bringing Gretchen and Donnie together and writing "cellardoor" on the blackboard.

Stopping this looping cycle revolves around the free will of Donnie Darko. As the Living Receiver in the Tangent Universe, he will either be motivated and learn enough to be able to choose to send the engine back to the past, which closes the loop and prevents the engine from falling on October 31, or he will fail and the time loop will restart itself, the jet-engine will fall. With the evidence that this has happened many times previous, the Manipulated Dead has failed in all previous attempts to prevent the paradox, failed to get Donnie to send the engine back, failed because Donnie would either not survive long enough to send the engine back, or he would choose to not send the engine back knowing it would mean his own death. The Manipulated Dead and the Manipulated Living persuaded Donnie in many ways: Grandma Death (Sparrow), Dr. Monnitoff who gives him the Philosophy of Time Travel and explains his paradox theory with "chain reaction that could destroy the universe", Frank-Bunny, meeting and becoming close with Gretchen, Frank killing Gretchen, everything was part of the ensurance trap, so Donnie would a) know how, know why, and want to change things so that Gretchen will live again. Donnie finally realizes enough to prevent the paradox from taking place by sending the engine back. This time the universe resets to the PU with Donnie in his bedroom. The laughter at this point was Donnie vaguely feeling that he did something great, by finally ending the paradox in order to prevent the recurring timeloop. After the engine crashes and kills Donnie, the OTHER (identical) engine that already exists in that timeline will be investigated thoroughly, and will not fly, or crash, on this October 30th timeline, hence no tangent will be created, the cycle is over, that is how Donnies action saved the future.

What do you guys think? Is this way off?



  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 28 2009 1:00:38


Posts: 800
Joined: Apr. 4 2007
From: London

RE: Donnie Darko (in reply to ToddK

Wow Todd. Can you recite the script as well?


  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 28 2009 1:30:04

Posts: 879
Joined: Jun. 13 2005
From: SW USA

RE: Donnie Darko (in reply to ToddK

I can honestly say that this is probably the best explanation I have read about the movie. I understood the main theme, but never really picked up on the the subplot of the two separate universes - one with a linear time sequence, and the other occurring as a loop. It all makes sense now.

So, since he saves the universe, would you say he represents a sort of Christ figure, as Neo in the Matrix trilogy?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 28 2009 2:26:13

Posts: 2481
Joined: Jul. 30 2007
From: Marbella

RE: Donnie Darko (in reply to ToddK

I Love this movie Todd. The best explanation I ever saw of it though was here.

What's with the 6-foot-tall rabbit?

Well, that's as good a place to start as any. Frank (played, in fur coat and out, by James Duval) is the boyfriend of Donnie's sister Elizabeth. (It's he who drops her off just before the jet engine fiasco.) Frank himself never meets Donnie until their fateful encounter on Halloween eve. The Frank who speaks to Donnie on the golf course and elsewhere is a kind of ghost Frank -- a remnant of Frank who, because Donnie shoots him in the eye within the Tangent Universe's 28 days, can move freely in time throughout the Tangent Universe. Frank's purpose -- for he's been chosen, as surely as Donnie has -- is to serve as Donnie's guide through the Tangent Universe, leading him toward clues and offering tasks that will smooth Donnie's way toward his goal.

According to Roberta Sparrow's book, Frank is an example of the Manipulated Dead. Apparently, those who die within the confines of the Tangent Universe are given some level of knowledge of the catastrophe to come and serve to some extent as the Chosen One's guide. There seems to be some variation in the level of understanding given to the Manipulated Dead; Gretchen, for example, the other Manipulated Dead, seems to have an inkling that something terrible is going to happen but clearly doesn't have the detailed comprehension Frank does. Nor does Gretchen's spirit appear to Donnie behind any kind of watery barrier. Nor does she dress up in a bunny suit.

Yeah, what's up with that bunny suit?

Donnie meets the real Frank -- not his Manipulated Dead specter -- for the first time on Halloween eve, with Frank in costume. But it's also an allusion to "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" -- just as the White Rabbit leads Alice down the hole into her great adventure, so does Frank lead Donnie into his own. Rabbit imagery abounds in "Donnie Darko," from a VW Rabbit driving down the streets of Middlesex to stuffed bunnies to a photograph of toddler Maggie Gyllenhaal next to a kid in a rabbit suit to (in the director's cut) an extended subplot revolving around Richard Adams' rabbits-in-peril novel "Watership Down."

OK, I still don't get it. How exactly does Donnie deliver the jet engine back through time? I get that there's a time portal or whatever above his house, and the jet engine falls through it, but it seems like it just falls off his mom's plane for no reason.

I couldn't figure this out at all, but, thank God, Kelly explains it on the DVD commentary. In addition to his super strength and super future-sight and super sulking power, Donnie has the power of telekinesis. He rips the engine off the plane himself.

Oh. I didn't get that.

I don't know anyone who did.

Why does he do that?

Well, he's basically railroaded into it. Previous events -- his conversations with Dr. Monnitoff, his reading of Roberta Sparrow's book -- have made it clear to Donnie what is going on, and he pretty much knows what he is supposed to do. But he's spurred on most directly by the events of the previous evening. Once he has killed a person and seen his girlfriend die before his eyes, he feels he has no choice but to send time backward -- to telekinetically rip off the engine, send it through the time vortex, and fulfill his destiny as the Living Receiver. (Sparrow's book refers to this as an Ensurance Trap, a snare created by the Manipulated Dead -- in this case, Frank and Gretchen -- to make absolutely sure that the Chosen One does his job.) Donnie believes that if he does what he's supposed to, this Tangent Universe he's in will disappear and it will be as if the past 28 days never happened -- Gretchen and Frank will still be alive.

But doesn't he know that if he sends the jet engine back in time, and it lands on his house, but he's back there on Oct. 2 in a regular universe with no Frank calling him out of bed, he'll get squashed like a bug?

Impaled, actually, as seen in a gruesome deleted scene on the DVD. It's hard to tell whether he knows this or not. His hysterical laughter at the end of the movie suggests he knows something's up. Sparrow's book notes that many of the Manipulated will see the events of the Tangent Universe in their dreams. So we can assume that at midnight on Oct. 2 in the Primary Universe, Donnie Darko wakes up from an exceptionally detailed dream in which he developed superpowers, got lucky, burned down a pervert's house, and discussed the sexual habits of Smurfs with his friends. Whether he understands the dream is uncertain; I think he does but chooses, due to all he's seen and his worries about repeating the mistakes of the Tangent Universe, to stay in bed and take a jet engine right in the kisser.

Interestingly, Kelly suggests in the DVD commentary that the car horn we hear as Elizabeth comes in the door is Frank's -- that he's honking not as a message to Elizabeth, but as one to Donnie. Perhaps Frank at that second realizes everything that happened in the Tangent Universe, and knows what is about to happen, and attempts to wake Donnie up and get him out of bed before the sky falls?

Also interestingly, this means that once again an extremely complicated film can be basically explained as being a representation of the dream a troubled character has just before death.

People remember the Tangent Universe in dreams? Is that why we saw everyone looking sad in bed?

Yeah. And Jim Cunningham is crying because he realized what a total perv he is. According to the film's Web site, he shoots himself 10 days later. The Web site has all kinds of fun tidbits: The FAA never figures out where the engine came from. Roberta Sparrow finally dies in December 1988. And Dr. Monnitoff marries Ms. Pomeroy; when he dies under suspicious circumstances in 1999, she sends his copy of "The Philosophy of Time Travel" to the Library of Congress with a cryptic note. Check it out, but be warned it's one of those annoying mysterious Web sites that take a week to figure out; look here for a step-by-step walkthrough.


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"Ceremonial" by Mark Shurey "Pimientito". CD and digital download vailable on Amazon and
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 28 2009 5:34:31

Posts: 2277
Joined: Apr. 17 2007
From: South East England

RE: Donnie Darko (in reply to Pimientito

Wow I have not a clue what you guys are talking about But it sounds so intriguing I've added it to my DVD rental list!

Will join in this conversation shortly......

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 28 2009 7:08:27


Posts: 800
Joined: Apr. 4 2007
From: London

RE: Donnie Darko (in reply to Pimientito


White Rabbit

You guys are SO sad
Not heard this for a long time BRILLIANT - LOVE IT


  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 28 2009 7:45:36

Posts: 13051
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Donnie Darko (in reply to ToddK

I hate when it all gets "explained" in Documentary style or commentary. I prefer what my mind creates. I saw the hole movie as a "what could I have done different" in the split second after he was crushed by the jet engine, which was as I saw it a "freak" accident. Like other movies about ghosts having trouble accepting their deaths and still feel "alive". Like 12 monkeys, jacobs ladder, the others, etc....just this one was sort of "science fictionish". Signs that he had to accept his death at the end were given by his own mind all through the movie.



CD's and transcriptions available here:
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Jan. 28 2009 11:18:54

Posts: 2277
Joined: Apr. 17 2007
From: South East England

RE: Donnie Darko (in reply to Ailsa

Finally finally got to watch this. And I did enjoy it hugely. Thought it was really stylish and clever. Great script, brilliant acting.

I can't say I analysed it to the extent you guys did, but I got the general gist of what was going on. Reading your posts now, ToddK and Pim, I can at last understand what you were talking about

Anyway, great recommendation. Got any more like that?

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 11 2009 11:27:53


Posts: 595
Joined: Sep. 30 2008
From: Hong Kong

RE: Donnie Darko (in reply to Ailsa



Finally finally got to watch this. And I did enjoy it hugely. Thought it was really stylish and clever. Great script, brilliant acting.

I can't say I analysed it to the extent you guys did, but I got the general gist of what was going on. Reading your posts now, ToddK and Pim, I can at last understand what you were talking about

Anyway, great recommendation. Got any more like that?

David Lynch is your best bet...
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 11 2009 13:41:00

Posts: 377
Joined: Feb. 20 2007
From: New Holland

RE: Donnie Darko (in reply to Pimientito


ORIGINAL: Pimientito
Also interestingly, this means that once again an extremely complicated film can be basically explained as being a representation of the dream a troubled character has just before death.

YAY! That's what I always thought...


¡este arbol tiene duende, cabron!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date May 11 2009 18:00:06
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