with Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell
Directed and Written by Richard Kelly
(20th Century Fox)
by Chad Van Wagner
Donnie Darko kicked up so much geek interest when it originally came out on DVD last year that 20th Century Fox chose to “re-release” it nearly a year later. It’s not difficult to see why the word spread. Donnie Darko is the rarest of films on many levels: A horror film with no monsters or crazed murderers, a science fiction film with no scientific explanations, a drama with no “good” guy, and a social commentary that’s so subtle, it might take more than one viewing to even notice it’s there.
Jake Gylenhaal is the title character, a thoroughly confused and morose high schooler, who sleepwalks and talks to a six-foot rabbit named Frank. Frank tells him the world is ending, and that Donnie is the only one who can save it. How exactly Donnie must do this, however, is not apparent.
What makes Donnie Darko so impressive is its nearly endless layers. It’s difficult to add up just how many levels the film works on, and there’s not nearly enough space here to give the film a basic summary, let alone an analysis. It’s a true labyrinth, one where even the most trivial scene takes on new meanings when a crucial bit of information is gleaned. I’ll just content myself with saying two things: One, not all the information necessary to understand the ending is present in the film itself. Dig through the supplemental material (especially the “book”) to discover just why some of the more surreal things happen the way they do. Two, one viewing isn’t going to do it. Patience, grasshopper. Spend the time. Treasures await.