Saturday, May 18, 2002
Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko

Darko and the Light

A disturbed student walks into the light.

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) ::: philms ::: ::: Read the whole thing



Ok. I hate to point out the obvious, but the movie was great. It leaves us with questions rather than answers. That’s the point. Like the whole debate on God, we’re left to decide what the movie is about us. The director takes it out of his hands and puts it in ours. That’s the real point of the movie. Movies like this lead to personal revelations about ourselves and how we precive the world around us.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 20 May 04 at 05:34 PM

Better late than never—I said on August 8th, 2003 that Annie’s review made me want to see the movie.  Here it is the third week of May 2004 and I just finished watching the movie.

My impression is that the universe was going to end because a wormhole opened up near earth. The quotation from the Sparrow book is probably on target.  That wormhole severed the plane engine and sent it back through time, crashing into Donnie’s house.

The movie deals in two parallel time sequences.  One, in which Donnie leaves his house and avoids the falling plane engine, a second, in which Donnie deliberately stays in his room and dies when the plane engine crashes into it.

Most people’s (here) speculation about what happens in the second sequence of events is probably right—Donnie certainly saved his girlfriend, at least, and many other events relating to him over the next month would certainly take a new turn.

But since the plane engine -still fell-, that means the wormhole still opened and the earth/universe was still threatened.  So I don’t see how Donnie’s death saved anyone from final destruction. 

One possibility is that the alternate time sequence is one in which Donnie dies and the wormhole doesn’t destroy everything, while the time sequence we witness is one in which Donnie lives and the wormhole does.  In this case Donnie’s death didn’t really directly save the universe, but simply set it on another time sequence.  But the movie doesn’t really tell us this.



Posted by Jim Rovira on 22 May 04 at 04:09 PM

Despite Jesse’s overconfident underexplanation, he’s right about the Frank that Donnie encounters throughout the movie not being the Frank that’s the teenage kid driving a car at the end. While I see no reason to believe Donnie had traveled through time before the very end of the film (at least within the context of the film), that doesn’t mean that Donnie wasn’t sensitive/perceptive of the future.  I would read Frank as something like a consciousness of some sort arising or directing future events, or future events taking the form of a consciousness directing Donnie.  I may be forgetting details, but it seems like Frank quit directing Donnie not long after Donnie was able to see the “future paths” coming out of his own and other people’s chests.  At that point Donnie became able to decide for himself what future to choose. 

You can’t really exclude God from the movie because Christian ideas about predestination and free will inform our ideas about the future and the past—if God sees everything happening, then the future is fixed.  But suppose a fixed future includes one person who can see ahead and make decisions? 

One traditional Christian answer to this dilemma is that God doesn’t “see ahead” in the sense that we would.  Instead, God relates to time as a chalkboard relates to a line drawn upon it.  If God is the chalkboad and time the line drawn upon it, everyone point on the line is equally “in the present” for God, so that God doesn’t so much see things happening in the future, but sees all time, past, present and future, as a singluar present.

The film doesn’t seem to consider this possbility. 


Posted by Jim Rovira on 22 May 04 at 04:18 PM

It should be pointed out that since planes fly on fixed schedules and since the wormhole seems to have arrived on a fixed schedule, then nothing Donnie could have done would alter the arrival of the wormhole or the fact that an engine from a plane on a particular flight would be ripped off the plane and cast back into the past.  Donnie could indeed alter who was on the plane and who was not—I think that speculation is a good one.  But he could not stop the wormhole or the flight itself.  So if the wormhole had anything to do with the end of the world, then Donnie could not have stopped it by any direct action of his own. 

There is no evidence within the context of the film to indicate that Donnie traveled through time.  Donnie’s own development over the course of the film seems to indicate that he didn’t consider the possibility of time travel for some time, and all the pieces didn’t come into place for him until the very end of the movie, at which time he traveled back in time and died. 

No one really seems to be talking about the culture/counter culture conflicts taking place in the film either, and how this relates to the time travel stuff.  You have the physics teacher, English teacher, and Donnie and his family on one side: all intelligent, perceptive, open minded people.  Then you have Swayze’s character, than nasty teacher, and the principal on the other side (also aligned with power structures).  You also have some very angry people in between, such as the young boys who were in Grandma Death’s house on Halloween night.

It’s also pretty interesting that the events ended the day after Halloween.  All these symbols seem to lead me to believe that the science fiction facets of the film are secondary to other facets, that they’re being used to say something about something else.


Posted by Jim Rovira on 22 May 04 at 04:27 PM

Some answers:
I must echo the suggestion for all to go to to get a few more pieces of the puzzle.

It has pages from Roberta Sparrows book that let you know that Frank the rabbit was actually the real Frank visiting Donnie after his death.

The Plane:
The site also lets you know that in the new timeline (Donnie’s death) The plane that the engine was torn from was not over Donnie’s house in Virginia at that moment, but on the ground in Denver.  In the the timeline after the movie ends, two identical engines exist in the world.  This suggests that in the 28 intervening days, the ripples of the effects of his life extended far beyond the house burning down and the school flooding, all the way to effect what plane would be assigned what flight on that day. 

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 28 May 04 at 09:16 AM

Now for my question:

My question is about Roberta Sparrow.  She is waiting for a letter for years.  She wrote the book and said that she hoped that it was fiction, but if someone found that it was not, they should contact her and let her know.  When she finally gets the letter (she is standing in the road with the envelope in her hand when Gretchen is killed), why does she not notice what is going on around her?  Has the mental burden of time travel made her go mad?  And more importantly, what the hell is her story!  How did she come to this knowledge in the first place.  I wanna see that movie.

One more comment.  Donnie seemed to interpret the things he was seeing (the paths people were to follow) he seemed to interpret them as proof that God did exist and that he was causing people to move in His divinely appointed paths, so Donnie ends the film with is big question, Do we all die alone, answered.  He laughs when he is about to die, and smiles more peacefully than we have seen him in the film.  He writes to Roberta that he has something to look forward to after life is over.  All these suggest that he now believes in God.

In juxtaposition, Roberta Sparrow, in the long time agos when she came to this knowledge and wrote her book, moved from faith to despair.  She was a nun who quit to teach science, lived alone in the hills and went mad. 

How do she and Donnie see the same things and come to different conclusions about the meaning of it all.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 28 May 04 at 09:17 AM

Oh, nonono….

The website is irrelevant, all we have is the movie.  They can say all they want, but if they didn’t make it part of the movie, then it’s not in there :).  There’s what the movie as a completed product means, and then there are the blanks everyone likes to fill in around it.  What the movie creators have to say about the blanks is interesting and important, but it’s not controlling.  Otherwise, authors would be able to make up all kinds of BS about what they wrote after the fact. 

If they want to do this, then let me make another movie :).

See, you can SAY the plane was on the ground all you want, but the movie deliberately left the impression the plane was in the air when the engine was torn off—in fact, the movie -showed- the plane in the air when the engine was torn off, and led you to believe it was the plane that Donnie’s mother was in.  So if they’re trying to say they intended it to be two different engines, then the film wasn’t conceived or executed very well.

The rabbit being Frank after his death is pretty plausible, but what does that explain?  Why was the rabbit doing these things, then?


Posted by Jim Rovira on 28 May 04 at 10:41 AM

To Web or Not To Web:
I guess that we just differ in how we interpret films.  I look at them a product of their creator and as such, we the viewers can discuss and imbue all the meaning that we want to, but I see the final interpretation and explanation belonging to the writer/director.  He created this universe and he can explain it or not explain it as he wishes. 

I think it is important to give a creator license to comment on his own work because in the film industry it is pretty much impossible for a writer to actually get his story onto theater screens for people to see.  We all know how money, politics and egos do a great deal to change a movie from what it was intended to be.

Now IMHO we can always choose to reject any elaboration on the original film (in whatever form it comes in, an interview with the writer, a web site from the production company, a sequel, etc.) if it does turn out to be “BS” and is not in keeping with the movie.

In this case, the web site adds just a little bit more to our understanding of the of what was going on in the film with out betraying it.  It gives us some text from the book that Donnie was so influenced by, which is really helpful in understanding why he acted the way he did, and gave context for the letter he wrote to Roberta Sparrow.  It also gave us a small epilogue in the form of a phone conversation between aviation officials about the plane.  This gives us a clue of how the film portrays time travel working, and actually opens up more questions for discussion about how a Tangent Universe interacts with the Primary Universe. 

I think that the web site is especially relevant in this case as making another movie to comment on the first would be a stunning feat since the movie lost four million dollars in its first release :)  Since they went ahead and blew a few grand more on top of that in a web site, might as well pay attention to it.


Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 30 May 04 at 07:09 PM

Two Engines?
My comment on your comment on the plane engine is that it was -shown- being blown off in the first timeline (presumably a Tangent Universe) and the web site lets us know that the same accident did not take place in the second timeline (The Primary Universe).  If that is the case then the picture it paints is not time as a straight line that is being jumped back and forth on, but time that is shaped like a branch with finite tangent lines coming off of the Primary Universe timeline.

But this still begs the question, if in the primary timeline on October 2, 1988 two of the exact engines same exist, the what the hell?  If a tangent timeline is created and some of the matter from the second timeline interacts or jumps over to the primary timeline via wormhole or startrekian transporter or something, then matter has been created from nothing. Does matter double when the timelines diverge?  If matter cannot be created from nothing, but for an act of God (who is presumably the guy that created matter from nothing in the first place) just making little tangent universes as a hobby?

And as for your question about Frank, I have been thinking about that, but I gotta go feed my son so that will have to wait.

Ginger…  shoulda read past chapter 4 of A Brief History of Time…. Taylor

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 30 May 04 at 07:10 PM

Thanks much for the responses.  I think authorial intent in films is even more complicated than authorial intent in novels, because a novel is pretty much the product of just the author (editors influence to varying degrees, but sometimes not at all), while films are always collaborative efforts.  The Director guides and funnels these efforts—is something like the controlling genius—but the control is not absolute.  At any rate, there’s a great deal that’s been said about the fallacy of authorial intent from a number of sources.  It’s probably not worth it to try to repeat this argument here.  But intentional arguments just don’t hold water—the director may have intended a certain impression, but that’s no guarantee that he/she pulled it off.

I agree with you that time, in the film, was not linear but branching.  The problem is, both timelines had an engine falling into Donnie’s room—that was the divergent point.  One time line took off from that point with Donnie staying alive.  That’s the timeline we witnessed.  It’s a closed loop so far as Donnie is concerned, because when the wormhole opens he travels back. 

The second timeline took off from that point with Donnie dying.  It is open—there are no more controls on it. 

And since both timelines had an engine falling into Donnie’s room, both timelines had a wormhole sucking the engine from the future into the past at that point. 

Okay…let’s go with what you said.  The engine being ripped off the plane is part of the first timeline.  That is right. The first timeline is what we see in the movie. 

Wait…wait…I think I can work this out. 

I wish I could put images in this freaking message board :).

Posted by Jim Rovira on 31 May 04 at 02:33 AM

Picture a perfectly straight horizontal line.  That’s the main timeline that we witness in the movie.  Now go about 2/3 of the way down the line, and picture a branch shooting up at about a 45 degree angle from the main line.  That’s timeline number 2. 

Now picture that one exact point where the split occurs.  That’s the moment the engine falls into Donnie’s room.  So it is the only event that’s common to both timelines—it can be the beginning of timeline 2 and still be caused by events in the future of timeline 1.

There is still a problem, though—Donnie himself.  If Donnie is in his bed when the engine hits the house, there should be a past Donnie who is outside the bed at the same time.  In other words, if Donnie physically traveled back in time in timeline 1, then at the one point where the timelines diverge there should be two Donnies.  But the movie doesn’t say that—it shows Donnie’s family grieving his death.

So Donnie’s time travel couldn’t be physical.  He had to tell himself to stay in bed somehow.  In that case, when picturing the line, you’d have to imagine that the main, straight line after the divergent point disappears, and all that’s left is the main, straight line up to the branch, and then the main line only follows the branch.  This would be really changing the past, then, in that it only allows one timeline to exist at a time.

Clear as mud :).


Posted by Jim Rovira on 31 May 04 at 02:41 AM

what is th level 1 password for the donnie arko website???  i cant figure it out and its driving me niuts!  If anyone could help id be much obliged!  anyways its driving me nuts!!!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 31 May 04 at 02:36 PM

To everyone whose confused about the movie, in the Director’s cut it shows parts of the “Philosophy of Time Travel” (which can be found online@  Read it and the whole movie makes sense.  I’ll answer the questions about the ENGINE:

“Artifacts provide first sign that a Tangent Universe has occured.”

The engine is the artifact.

“The Living Receiver is chosen to guide the Artifact into position for its journey back to the Primary Universe. “

Donnie is the living receiver and so the whole movie is in the TANGENT universe until the end, which is when Donnie uses his special abilities to bring the artifact(engine) back to the primary universe.  There were 2 engines in the TU because it was brought from the PU. 

All the other characters in the movie are manipulated living (teachers, Gretchen, etc…) and frank is the manipulated dead.

Posted by MagicianB on 07 Jun 04 at 06:15 PM

That’s pretty sad, though, isn’t it?  That they cut the part that makes the movie make sense? :)


Posted by Jim Rovira on 07 Jun 04 at 08:25 PM

Actually, I’ve heard from someone that they are pissed about the book being in the Director’s Cut because it makes the movie too obvious.  I didn’t think it was obvious at all though, still took a lot of thinking and a little research. :)

Posted by MagicianB on 08 Jun 04 at 08:30 PM

It seems to me that the research serves the same purpose as the info in the director’s cut.  It really helps to see the main timeline of the movie as the tangent universe, though. 


Posted by Jim Rovira on 09 Jun 04 at 11:50 AM

I must say i just re-watched the movie and in a way, i think it’s good they left some of the obvious stuf out because then you do this research and learn more and whole communities and develope about therioes of the film. that, and it makes people think.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 17 Jun 04 at 12:19 PM

I have learned more by reading these frighteningly insightful responses to my favorite movie of all times.  I feel like I have been mistaken all along.  Being a psychology major, and having personal insight into the matter…I related on a psychological level to Donnie’s hallucinations and grandiose ideas as symptoms of a biochemical/psychological journey.  I didn’t put together this or that timeline, and never thought to make sense of it chronologically or with respect to different ideologies.  I just know that this movie is the only moving image I could honestly say depicts my thought process in a very beautiful tale.  the hallucination of frank, and then the imminent plans for the future, the involvement of the government with the plane crash (the man in the silver space suit, the CIA looking men in dark glasses and suits) are all very loaded images for me and for those who suffer from thought disorders.  The government, the future, time in general, ideologies, and the old existential dilemma all come to a screeching roar in my mind when I reach a psychotic peak in my thinking.  These types of stories run rampant in my head and those that have the same disorder as I do.  I only thought that the cycle at the end where Donnie ends up in his bed, and seem to die—and how that doesn’t fit with the tangent universe, etc.  I thought that they did that to have a creative ending because they could not explain the thought process of Donnie, and that his fictitious thoughts were the main point of the whole story!  I thought the book, the time travel, and all of that were simply superfluous additions to create some distractions from his painfully obvious battle with paranoid schizophrenia.  I think everyone must take what they want to out of this movie, and for me I guess that it is much more important to see a beautiful portrait of some of the journeys my mind and others like me have taken.  I loved Donnie’s rants in public about the absurdity of everything, and his lucid depiction of what ACTUALLY is going on.  Sometimes people say that the depressed or mentally disturbed become overwrought because they overthink or have a much more realistic perception of what is happening.  sometimes that is essentially what is going on.

I really want to meet the director/writer of this film.


Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 25 Aug 04 at 10:13 PM

wait? if donnies mom was on the air plane that same morning donnie died why is she still alive when u see donnies body goin in to the ambulance? isnt that part of the airplane that donnies mom was on? and if it was then why do they say they dont know where it came from? im confused off this whole movie i even whent on the web site. and stoped at the phone call cause it ends with “donnie time is up” or something like that. i even read the book sparrow wrote i understand what the charaters stand for acording to the book. but when he time travels back he laughs?cause hes goin to die… but then again wasnt there sapouse to be another donnie already in the past??? u see one donnie but if u think about it the donnie from the persent gose to the past, right.. so then wheres the one already in the past?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 27 Aug 04 at 02:42 AM

lol, there isn’t a donnie “in the past”  there’s 1 donnie and 2 universes.  Since Donnie traveled back to the past, the mom isn’t on the airplane anymore.  He traveled back in time when the mom was still in the house, like how it showed at the start.  The point is that everything in the tangent universe leads to that piece of the plane falling, leading to Donnie’s choice of saving the universe.  Since they traveled back in time, they still don’t know where that part of the plane came from because it came from the tangent universe’s future.  You say you understand that they traveled back in time at the end of your post, yet don’t understand that they did at the start… :P

Posted by MagicianB on 27 Aug 04 at 05:15 AM

WHOA! Donnie didn’t travel himself back in time. If you carefully read the “Philosophy of Time Travel” the Living Reciever is chosen to GUIDE the Artifact into position for its journey back to the primary universe. He doesn’t travel himself so there aren’t TWO Donnies in the primary Universe.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 23 Nov 04 at 07:05 AM

WHOA! Donnie didn’t travel himself back in time. If you carefully read the “Philosophy of Time Travel” the Living Reciever is chosen to GUIDE the Artifact into position for its journey back to the primary universe. He doesn’t travel himself so there aren’t TWO Donnies in the primary Universe.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 23 Nov 04 at 07:06 AM

hi, does anyone have any information on the number of genres present in donnie darko, and whether the film proves that genre is pointless as it cannot be pigeonholed into one definate genre.  I am doing my coursework on this and would appreciate your views.  Thank you

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 25 Nov 04 at 11:16 AM

Grandma Death went to the post box every day.  Was she waiting for Donnie’s letter.  Why did she stand in the middle of the lane.  Did she travel through time and know that her life was predestined to divert Frank’s car causing Gretchen’s death? Is this why she was mad?

So much cause and affect, or is it effect?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01 Dec 04 at 05:12 AM

Of course I agree that the creators of any fictional work are allowed to comment on their own work.  I also agree that any fictional work—film or otherwise—is the product of the person(s) who created it.  It’d be silly to say otherwise on both counts.  What I disagree with is the idea that the author/director’s opinion is “controlling” as a result.  Creators are not in full control of their created product—not at any time—so can say things they didn’t intend and not say things they did intend.  If the website fills in gaps, then it supplies some useful possibilities, but this isn’t controlling.  The gaps are part of the created product—part of what they originally intended—so they’re part of the work and its meaning as well.

I think the problem with there being “duplicate” matter is a problem inherent in the idea of separate timelines—but once we admit there are separate, parallel timelines, we have to accept that there are two Donnie Darkos, two airplanes, etc. 

Now I’m trying to rethink this thing again.  If I remember correctly, it seemed to make sense that the “alternate” timeline was the one we watched in the film—so that the plane was in the air in the alternate timeline, lost its engine, but the engine fell to earth at a point where both timelines intersected.  So Donnie was able to go back to that point, stay in his room (what happened to the second Donnie, then?  There’d have to be a reintegration), and be killed, eradicating the second timeline in which his girlfriend died and other horrible things happened. 

This means it’s irrelevant where the plane was in the main timeline.  Could have been on the ground, in the air, etc.  It seems to make sense that it would be following the same flight pattern in both timelines, unless there’s a specific accounting for why it’s in the air in the alternate timeline but on the ground in the original timeline.  Remember—the alternate timeline is an extension of the original timeline.  Saying that Donnie just changed things isn’t enough—a chain of events that explain the change sensibly within the world of the film is what is needed here.


Posted by Jim Rovira on 01 Dec 04 at 11:48 AM
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