Directed by Richard Kelly 2001
When debut director Richard Kelly was asked what the hell this film was about, he answered Its either an elaborate parallel universe or its all a dream. He described its genre as A black comedy-ensemble-suburban drama-science fiction-thriller-character study-80s period piece. Which nicely sums it up!
Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a densely woven treatise on a dark and creative teenage boy who is struggling within the complexities of his mind to cope with the simplistic and reductive nature of suburban America in the 1980s. It has a bewildering plot line that is spiritual, intelligent and rebellious, boasting the hottest soundtrack in film history. It is perhaps best summed up by the lyrics of its closing song Mad World: I find it kind of funny and I find it kind of sad/But the dreams in which Im dying are the best Ive ever had
And so it begins that Donnie awakens in his pyjamas on an expensive suburban golf course. The confused somnambulist returns home on his pushbike to find an engine from a passenger plane has crashed into his family home crushing his bedroom. His shocked family watches on as the paramedics carry out his body. He is dead.
So is the rest of the film a flash back? Is it that blazing moment where your life flashes before your eyes at the point of death? Is Donnie metaphorically dead in the environment that seems to stifle and contradict his authenticity as an intelligent individual? Is heaven really weird and is God a creepy rabbit called Frank? Well, that will have to remain open to your interpretation.
Fraught with the emotional violence endemic to the raw, detached syndrome of adolescence, Donnie starts to receive messages from a disturbing life-size anthropomorphic rabbit called Frank who convinces him the world will end in 28 days. Frank prompts him towards some revolutionary acts that Donnie undergoes in a twisted dreamlike fashion. He falls in love and loses his virginity, he floods the school that fired its only free-thinking teacher, he sets fire to the house of a popular evangelist who is secretly a child pornographer and he witnesses the manslaughter of his new girlfriend.
Superbly directed with fluidic complimentary cinematography by the young director and mind-blowing performances, Donnie Darko is a definite cult classic.