Donnie Darko-Director’s Cut {Richard Kelly, 2001}

Donnie Darko {Richard Kelly, 1996} Time: Approx 2 hours 14 Mins. Other Films By Richard Kelly: The Goodbye Place, Visceral Matter, Southland Tales, The Box

Donnie Darko is one of my favorite films, and to me Richard Kelly is an amazing filmmaker who will hopefully be looked back on as a genius of the craft. There are many out there that just do not have the taste for this kind of film and that is totally fine, nobody is forcing them to watch it repeatedly…unless there is a sick evil guy out there using Clockwork Orange type methods of torture on people. Anyway, I will focus on why I personally really love this film, because that is what this blog is about.

The Story: The screenplay for Donnie Darko was a long time coming, and Kelly really struggled to get it made; choosing not to listen to the people who passed it off as something that was too weird to be anything more than a sample of good script-writing. Dealing with Time travel and alternate universe concepts is never an easy undertaking; just look at T2: Judgement Day, Chrono Trigger/Cross, or ideas put forth in A Brief History of Time (which the film references). Because of the very nature of these themes there are bound to be what some would call plot holes. Others would call these open-ended points that provoke a lot of thought and discussion. I picked up a copy of the collector’s edition in a sweet metal tin when I was a freshmen in college, and my roomate and I spent an entire afternoon pausing and re-watching scenes, then watching with commentary in order to figure everything out. It was a lot of fun, and even now it is hard to pinpoint all of the details, which is something I cherish about the film. Like Pulp Fiction, the story is so intricate and well created that it always seems fresh and evokes much contemplation.

Science Fiction without Aliens and Space: There are lots of ways to describe Donnie Darko and one of them is with the term science fiction. Indeed the film deals with a lot of science fiction concepts, but it is also a well played drama, sometimes a dark comedy “How exactly do you suck a fuck?”, and at it’s core a love story. Some might even equate it to a superhero film, with the protagonist being an alliteratively named hero of an entire universe. Like all good science fiction, it isn’t necessarily about technology and the future, or aliens and space travel, instead it is about core values and human emotions, endeavors and sacrifices. This is sometimes confusing to people who feel duped when films get to smart (2001: A Space Odyssey, The Fountain).

The Music: One of the most incredibly synced audio/visual experiences that can be had. Even if you are not a huge fan of 80’s music there is a whole disc of scored material on the soundtrack that fits the mood of the film perfectly. The integration of the music is not just to set place and time, but to subtly influence the viewer in the storytelling process. Mad World, Head Over Heels, and Killing Moon are just a few examples of music specifically chosen because of its lyrical ties with the subject matter. It is obvious that Kelly was listening to and probably influenced by the tracks during the writing process, something that other directors such as Quentin Tarantino are known for.

I will hopefully be writing more about this film soon, but it is getting late and I am tired. There is definitely more to talk about, so this post will be updated in the near future. until then, check out some of the links below for more coverage on this film. I also have about 100 more screenshots if anyone wants more…

Daniel W Pierce – 2/10/2009

“Every living creature on Earth dies alone” -Roberta Sparrow


Official Site:

IMDB Page:


Wikipedia Page:


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