Donnie Darko is a cult classic and one of my favourite films of all time. It follows a month in the life of a teenager, Donnie Darko, who imagines a human-sized skeletal rabbit called Frank telling him when the world is going to end. If that isn’t an intriguing idea for a film I don’t know what is. The film is dark, funny and ever so slightly creepy. You’re left with the confused feeling that there was something key you might have missed in the plot which would explain it’s mysteries – it is all there, you just have to look. After a jet engine falls into his room while he is out sleepwalking, Frank starts to visit Donnie and he begins to investigate the idea of time travel – which is where the film starts to become mind-bendingly strange.
I grew up with this film, and I would say that a giant rabbit prophesying the future is justifiably unsettling for a seven year old, but it turns out that I was too hypnotised to notice.
“as you go into it with an open mind you’ll find it’s unexpectedly comedic and fun”
As I continue to watch it every month or so, one thing that still strikes me about the film is the soundtrack. Featuring bands such as Tears for Fears and Joy Division, the music is a constant throw back to the 80s, and dips occasionally into a lurking, eerie original score. Similarly, the contrast between everyday occurrences like Donnie’s journey to school and the other worldly moments like the warping bubble that controls people’s actions, work to build up the surrealism of the film. This isn’t to scare off the average cinema-goer – as long as you go into it with an open mind you’ll find it’s unexpectedly comedic and fun, albeit in a darker package.
The cast is another reason to watch this film. Not only is Jake Gyllenhaal effortlessly watchable in one of his first break-through films, but with actors such as Patrick Swayze, Jena Malone and Drew Barrymore in supporting roles the film works with their talent to portray unexpected and at times painfully relatable characters. Viewers may also notice a very young Seth Rogan in his debut feature appearance.
“I am not yet bored of this psychological thriller.”
Although it has similar tones to films such as Pan’s Labyrinth, The Matrix, and Blade Runner in the sense that it encourages the audience to draw their own conclusions, the film stands alongside these other films with its use of iconic imagery. From the ‘Sparkle Motion’ dance team’s slow motion routine to Duran Duran or the giant bulldog statue with an axe embedded in its skull. The film is filled with images that work to build up a sense of dark humour with just a hint of confusion at what is and isn’t real. However, despite the constant misdirection throughout the narrative, the ending provides the real twist as the events of the film take on a new meaning and an alternative plot reveals itself.
The film almost always leaves you wanting more information, or at least to watch it again to try and work it out for yourself. This I have done, Extended Director’s Cut included, and I am not yet bored of this psychological thriller. It is edited to perfection, has the soundtrack of my childhood and the quirks and questions raised in the narrative provide a new outlook each viewing.