So I watched Donnie Darko again, and after much speculation, I’ve come up with a theory as to what it all means. If you want to know my reaction to this movie the first time I ever watched it, please read My 1st ever viewing of Donnie Darko. If you haven’t watched the movie, you can’t read this. Go watch it and then come back. Trust me, you’d be doing yourself a favor.
Donnie Darko was a kid who couldn’t deal with darkness or the evil in the world. He rebelled against everything that was impure, because in essence, he himself was pure and good. But the anger he felt at life created his own personal demon. The fact that he decides to take the life of the guy who accidentally killed his girl is proof that Donnie does have a dark side, product of his unwillingness to–paradoxically–let darkness take over everything he values.
Frank is the guy Donnie killed at the end of the movie, this being the climactic choice that defines his fate. After Donnie takes the shot, he becomes visibly calmer and more resolute, like he knows what’s going on now and what he has to do. This is a movie with time traveling elements, so we must take that into account when we think about who Frank really is or what he represents.
Frank is the victim of Donnie’s demon, his anger. Because of this their fates are intertwined. When Donnie killed Frank he became the master of his life and death. It’s this power that compelled Frank to transform into Donnie’s astral guide, who then travels back in time and helps Donnie on his mission to make things right. Frank helps Donnie sacrifice himself to revert all of the damage and fulfill his mission. Donnie had to live through all of that because he had to realize who he really was.
He died in a fit of hysterics, maybe because he finally made peace with his reality. And because he died in order to save others, he also redeemed himself. There’s a Donnie Darko poem that goes:
A storm is coming, Frank says
A storm that will swallow the children
And I will deliver them from the kingdom of pain
I will deliver the children back to their doorsteps
And send the monsters back to the underground
I’ll send them back to a place where no-one else can see them
Except for me
Because I am Donnie Darko.
During a part of the movie, Gretchen (Donnie’s girlfriend) tells him his name sounds superhero-ish. And I think that maybe he is a superhero. He’s the kid who connected to everybody’s pain and took it upon himself to save others from the suffering he was experiencing. He was afraid of the darkness both internal and external, and of being alone. But in the end he gave in to the darkness, and then he decided to die alone, because for once… everything made sense to him.
I’m sure there are many other things I’m overlooking. Even just editing this post there are a thousand questions popping into my head. I like that the movie is a little undecipherable. It kind of gives some insight into Donnie’s also undecipherable mind.
I’m also looking forward to watching this movie again sometime in the future, and maybe my perspective on it will shift once again. It’s a riddle, after all. And that’s the fun of it.