Donnie Darko  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Donnie Darko is a 2001 drama/psychological thriller/science fiction film written and directed by Richard Kelly. The film had a small opening upon its release in the U.S., but gained newfound popularity upon its DVD release and a cult following over the years.


The story occurs in the town of Middlesex, Virginia (though it was filmed in the Los Angeles area), during the time of the 1988 presidential election campaign. Donnie Darko is an intelligent though emotionally troubled teenager who sleepwalks, and is in the medical care of a psychiatrist with whom he discusses his deepest thoughts. One night, a mysterious jet engine from a commercial aircraft falls into Donnie's bedroom; he avoids death by obeying a voice in his head causing him to sleepwalk outside from his room, corrupting space and time. The voice is that of Frank, an (apparently) imaginary friend dressed in a ghastly man-sized rabbit costume. At midnight on October 2nd, Frank prophesies to Donnie that the end of the world will occur in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds.

Frank instructs Donnie to perform further acts, provoking a certain chain of events allowing the finale to occur: he floods his high school, giving him the opportunity to court a new classmate and potential love Gretchen Ross; he pursues time travel, leading to a conversation with his science teacher, who gives him the book The Philosophy of Time Travel, by Roberta Sparrow, an aged town resident known as "Grandma Death" among the neighborhood children; he and Gretchen go to the cinema to watch a double feature, The Evil Dead and The Last Temptation of Christ, she falls asleep, Frank appears and shows him a wormhole portal in a cinema, where Frank reveals himself as a teenager of the same age as Donnie, with a wound in his right eye. Frank incites Donnie to burn down the house of a motivational speaker he ridiculed at a school function, thereby exposing a secret "kiddie porn dungeon". The motivational speaker's arrest causes Donnie's mother to chaperone his younger sister and her dance group on a flight to the talent hunt program Star Search in Los Angeles.

Donnie begins seeing ripples in space-time, depicted as water-like tentacles protruding from people's chests, brought on by the corruption of the current timeline. The tentacles indicate where the person will travel in the near future: he sees one tentacle snake into the room, followed by his younger sister skipping through the room. These singularities are described in Roberta Sparrow's book. Another tentacle leads Donnie to a pistol in his parents' closet, which he takes and keeps.

On the night of October 29th, with Donnie's parents out of town, Donnie and his sister Elizabeth have a party to celebrate her being accepted to Harvard. Donnie takes Gretchen and two other friends for advice from Roberta Sparrow when they are ambushed by two school bullies, who happen to be robbing the house that night. In the struggle, Donnie is held down with a knife to his neck by one of the bullies. The bully then says: "Why the fuck are you here?". Donnie then proclaims "Deus ex Machina" (literally "god out of a machine").The bully is confused, and says: "What the fuck did you just say?". Donnie then simply says: "Our Saviour". Gretchen is then pushed onto the road and is run over and killed by a car, after which the bullies flee; (it then is past midnight, so it is October 30th). The car that killed Gretchen stops, and Donnie sees the driver. After seeing that the driver is Elizabeth's boyfriend Frank in a Halloween rabbit costume, Donnie shoots him in the eye, killing him; (earlier foreshadowed when Donnie talked to Frank in his bathroom and he raised a knife, making stabbing motions to the right eye of Frank's visage as well as during the scene in the movie theater when Frank removes his mask to reveal a gaping wound in his right eye).

Donnie carries Gretchen's body home where he places it in a car. He spots a wormhole portal opening directly over his home and he drives to a hillside overlooking Middlesex, while police vehicles come screeching to a halt in front of his home. From the hilltop he can see in the distance the portal in the shape of a tornado with an airplane flying directly over it. Donnie's mother and sister experience turbulence on their return flight home; one of the airplane's jet engines detaches and falls. The engine travels through the time portal to 28 days earlier, crashes into Donnie's bedroom, causing a time travel predestination paradox; on that occasion, Donnie chooses to stay in bed.

The story ends on the morning after the original jet engine accident. Donnie is dead and his body is removed from the house as his family mourns. As all the people upon whom Donnie's actions had an impact (or rather, would have had an impact upon) sit stunned, Frank, with a prototype bunny Halloween mask, subconsciously touches his right eye. Gretchen is alive and rides by on her bicycle. Never having met Donnie, she talks with a neighborhood child about the sad accident. She waves to Donnie's mother; there is a sense of recognition between them.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Donnie Darko" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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