Sunday, January 02, 2011
Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko

Explaining the Madness

A new theory to help the viewer unravel the cult classic.



Dear Erik,

I have penned a metaphilm article or two myself, in fact, I have one currently pending an editorial.  I have also read plenty of similar literature.

I have to say, I think your article rocks.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 05 Jan 11 at 08:43 PM

if a film has to be explained by an internet website’s long and tedious article with graphs etc , then it’s not a very good film…...........

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 13 Jan 11 at 10:27 PM

Do you think that Mrs. Sparrow could have been trying to fulfill her destiny and die in a car accident?  She was always checking the mail and crossing the street.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 14 Jan 11 at 12:23 AM

I highly disagree with vesey on this one. I think the most respectable of films, music, etc, just like any other form of art, is one that contains layers that allow room for thought and philosophy rather than more simple movies that just “please” you on one level. If I can spend multiple occasions over an extended time rediscovering my favorite films, songs, and paintings then I have a much deeper respect for them and overall enjoyment in having them around.

As for Mrs. Sparrow, I agree. That gives her a more profound   purpose and understanding in the film.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 14 Jan 11 at 01:51 AM

Thank you so much for this, awesome job. I can’t wait to watch the movie again

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 14 Jan 11 at 02:58 AM

What purpose would Sparrow have in dying, though? I thought her destiny was to help the Living Reciever, which she does just fine by giving Donnie the book. Correct me if I’m wrong (I haven’t seen the movie in over a year), but it seems like she wouldn’t be able to help anymore dead as she did alive.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 17 Jan 11 at 09:25 PM

But if both universes keep going on after Donnie “succeeded”, then the Tangent Gretchen that died because of him is still dead, the teachers still only had the one chance, his mother still had to fly in the plane that lost an engine. That universe is still messed up. So what makes it less important than the Primary universe? Was it just the sacrifice that was necessary to fail in order for the Primary universe to thrive?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 24 Jan 11 at 11:07 PM

i dont even know how to start this comment lol, but i would have to begin by agreeing with your explanation of the movie, at least the best explanation so far…all i have is one question…does the scene where they talk about the smurf story have any importance?...or was the whole message ‘life is pointless without a dick’?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 25 Jan 11 at 05:54 AM

Hi Erik.

Weird how you decided to do this only recently…

Can you clarify the following please?
Frank (Donnie’s sister’s boyfriend) in the primary universe (? - drives past Donnie at the start of the film in his pontiac). Frank manipulated dead in the tangent universe(?). If so, this doesn’t quite fit IMO, as when Donnie tries to stab Frank in the eye there is a barrier between them, so one would assume that they are in two different dimensions.


Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 27 Jan 11 at 09:12 AM

Why I am responding to “vesey” I do not know, maybe because if “vesey” is reading this website, then “vesey” is on the verge of a very positive breakthrough in understanding the “meta” nature of film.  So, here is my humble opinion as to why the comment by “vesey” is incorrect.  When the game of Chess was created, and all of it’s modern components were finalized (the 64 squares and 32 pieces), it contained within it’s boundaries every game ever played, every theory ever written, and every idea, emotion, and outcome of any fame of Chess.  Were these inherent possibilities unveiled and understood hundreds of years ago?  No. Are long winded, fascinating, intelligent,  or confusing theories written about Chess some proof that Chess is a bad game?  No.  The work of the above author was inside the film when it was made.  Kelly put it in there, regardless of whether or not ge knew it.  This essay is not the only one living inside of Darko.  But it is the complexity, intelligence, and focus if the essay that reveals the nature of the film, a reflection of it’s quality.  I’m probably not explaining this well.  I just hope that you, “vesey” take some more time to reflect upon you’re comments.  Quick shout out to the WWWiz, an extremely gifted and highly accomplished soul.  Always top notch work my friend.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 28 Jan 11 at 12:30 AM

I agree with vesey.  While the explanation is fascinating, the movie itself is baffling and in many ways esoteric.  This is a highly complex scenario with a heavy mythos; could a simplification of the science fiction element lend itself to the same themes more directly if not more effectively?

With these aspects of the film fully explained I don’t feel as if the film is really saying anything particularly profound in all of its nested complexity.  It wraps up fairly straightforward character arcs in a complicated package to no effect other than confounding the average viewer.

The book that helps explain the plot doesn’t even really exist.  This is a science fiction film where the scientific part of the fiction is, in itself, primarily fiction.

I find it all to be a tad bit pretentious and goofy.  It makes sense now, but the reaction inside my head was less of an “ahhh!” and more of an “...oh.”

All in all I don’t care much for this film.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02 Feb 11 at 06:16 PM

Wasn’t this already explained in the DVD’s Director’s Commentary?

Posted by carlo on 02 Feb 11 at 06:43 PM

Wait, I was under the impression that the events at the end of the film take place on the same date as the beginning of the film, because he has negated Frank and is not saved. Thus, there are still two jet engines in the PU.

Because his mother’s flight was during the daytime in the TU, so the engine can’t have been during her flight on the later date.

Therefore, your argument seems (to me) to make no sense, as we still have an extra jet engine.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12 Apr 11 at 06:40 PM


If Donnie Darko was that difficult to understand try watching Primer.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 13 Apr 11 at 04:00 AM

love the article and the way its workin my mind, although i’m still not sure if I completely understand it. in saying that donnie is gifted with the powers of time travel, is it implied that his subconscious knows he is going to die, so he unknowingly triggers these time traveling powers that send him to a universe he can manipulate, hence avoiding death? but since he needs to die, is it actually his subconscious taking him to the alternate universe in order to show him that he is capable of, and actually has been, manipulating time, allowing him to gradually “come to terms” with his own death? I just went back and re-read it, and I think i get why it’s not making sense to me; after defining the terms, you say donnie traveled between A and B, taking everyone with him, and this occured before oct 2. and then, on oct 2, the jet engine from the primary universe comes to the tangent universe.  did donnnie bring the engine b/c im not understanding how it got there; is the portal always open? now my brain is starting to hurt. this is a great article and id really like to fully understand this theory, so if you understand, please post :) thanks!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 14 Apr 11 at 04:37 AM

And now Jake Gyllenhaal is back playing a guy who has to keep going back in time until he saves a lot of doomed people.  But in this one, he’s dead at the beginning and alive at the end.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 15 Apr 11 at 12:20 AM

About 2 days ago I asked my boyfriend about the timeline of this movie and more specifically why the hell was he laughing in the road? Did he know what was happening? Then I Stumbled on this and I was so damn excited I made him mute the tv so I could read it to him. I loved the whole thing. I love that some people agree and some think its crap. I would like to know what the writer thinks?!?!? Did he do this research? Did it just happen to meet all “prereqs” of 3 major theories about spacetime? Well this comment got way too long. Well done, sir, well done.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 15 Apr 11 at 05:26 AM

Max, comprehending primer requires a lot of patience. after watching it about 6 times, i still dont get probably 70% of the movie. each scene has so much detail and subtleties. ive had people, who have claimed to watch it 20 times and understand it, tried to explain it to me and they still couldnt do that. if somebody has a writeup on it, post it please.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 23 Apr 11 at 04:42 PM

Sorry to be a jerk, but I must point out a few VERY significant errors in wording. First of all, third paragraph under “Time travel : is it possible?” Black holes DO NOT have near infinite mass. They have the same mass as what went in when it became a black hole and everything it has absorbed since. What does change is the DENSITY becomes near infinite, not the mass. Also, the explanation towards what makes the tangent universe so unstable I found to be incomplete. Why would a duplicate object create the massively innocuous “cosmic imbalance”? If it did, what would this even mean, and why would that cause the universe to collapse? Even citing the law of conservation of mass would be faulty because if you read Brian Greene’s subsequent book “The Fabric of the Cosmos” you would know that travelling into another universe wouldn’t upset that law as the matter would still exist in the multiverse, and that in fact certain particles can and do travel between parallel dimensions all the time, some permanently. Well, I’m done with criticisms. This explanation was very well written, easy to read, and more importantly effectively explained all of the subtleties of my favorite movie ever made. Thank you very much.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01 May 11 at 12:37 PM

I have one problem.  When you asked the question, “If it is missing an object altogether, wouldn’t it become unstable as well?” you used a metaphor about a glass of water.  Your point was that if a full universe lost an object from within itself then that universe would be fine and only the universe gaining that extra object would be unstable.  The problem is that you are only half-right.  The law of Conservation of Mass states that matter can be neither created or destroyed only converted as supported by Einstein’s E=MC^2.  Meaning that Energy is equal to Mass x the speed of light squared.  So, if Donnie’s home universe were to lose any energy or matter than that universe would also be in jeopardy because, that universe would then be incomplete. This law is also why most scientists do not believe that travel from one universe to another is possible due to the perversion of this rule.  With that then the entirety of this film is in complete disregard to one of the most widely accepted laws of physics.  That being said, BOOM.  Have fun arguing about a fictional film some more.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07 May 11 at 12:45 AM

I understand that the movie is in disregard of several accepted laws of physics. You missed the point I was making entirely. What this movie suggests, and what is commonly accepted in what’s called the “many worlds theory” (yes the same one used to explain quantum phenomenon). Suggests that endless numbers of parallel universes holding different sequences of events exist, and it is my believe that it is this theory that this movie was based upon. Furthermore, as I mentioned before, there are several particle species that are known to duck in and out of those universes on occasion without any adverse “instability” effects. We also believe that the reason this is possible is that the law of conservation of mass applies to all universes and at all times, given that time is both relative to an observer and a static medium dimensionally speaking (by this I mean, in any one timeline the past and the future are certain even though Heisenberg doesn’t allow us to see this) , there should be no reason why objects and particles can’t duck in and out of two or more universes over time as this does not violate the law of conservation of mass.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08 May 11 at 04:07 PM

first off, you wrote a great article about a rather good movie. that being said, i wonder what you could be capable of if your time were spent on something more meaningful. dan is right about the infinite density thing. the mass of a black hole is of that which was transformed into the black hole itself and the subsequent mass of the matter which is drawn into the black hole. that doesnt have a whole lot of bearing on you article but he probably just wanted us to know he’s a smart guy. blake’s argument is rudimentary in comparison to the original author’s. any idiot knows that matter cannot be created or destroyed, but in erik’s explanation, the matter itself is not created or detroyed, it merely travels between two planes of existence or “parallel universes.” the movie is a work of fiction and the writer/director knew that it would bring about discussions such as this in the making of the film. i have seen the film a few times and never considered what kind of research may have been done in making the film or attempting to solve the riddle of its having been made. i stumbled on this site and would like to thank erik for his explanation. also, a little feedback would be nice for me and my fellow commentors.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09 May 11 at 01:57 AM

Sorry folks, a scientific explanation doesnt really appy here for the story of Donnie Darko. Its a spiritual movie, it is a remake of the Last Temptation Of Christ by Scorcese staring Willem Dafoe and Harvey Keitel as Jesus and Judas. Dont believe me? Watch it yourself.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10 May 11 at 07:39 AM

I “stumbled” on this page…and I have watched Donnie Darko more then 20 times probably in my lifetime. And I completely and 100% agree with everything you have said. That is EXACTLY what I always understood the movie to be broken down into. I am so happy that there are other people who feel this way. Wonderful article, and thank you for taking the time to explain it all.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 16 May 11 at 01:39 AM

A follow up about the plot, is how it shows the butterfly effect. It shows the idea that the choices you make define your destiny, however, there is only one true destiny. In other words, there may be many paths (the multiple circuits through the Tangent Universe) but in the end he had to face reality and the come to terms with his fears, though with the wisdom of the tangent universe’s memories.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 25 May 11 at 01:33 PM
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