Donnie Darko: visually pleasing and inventive story telling

donnie_darko_ver3Greatest Fantasy/Thriller of All Time by Kieran S.

Donnie Darko
Richard Kelly
Flower Films (2001)

Donnie Darko is a fantastic movie that was directed and written by the creative Richard Kelly.         This movie tells the story of a psychologically troubled teenage boy named Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) living in a suburban town in America. The movie starts with Donnie being awakened by a voice telling him to come outside, so he leaves his house to find a figure in a monstrous rabbit costume who tells him that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. Donnie awakes on a golf course the next morning and drives home to find that  jet engine has crashed into his house where his room is. The rest of the film follows Donnie’s path as he encounters the monstrous rabbit figure named Frank several times and is influenced to commit several crimes. The film also has several sub-plots such as Donnie falling in love with a classmate (Jena Malone). The movie includes several other great actors and actresses such as Maggie Gyllenhaal, Patrick Swayze, and Drew Barrymore.

The actors all fit very well to their roles, especially Jake Gyllenhaal. He plays a wonderful troubled teenager who’s thoughts deviate from his peers’. His behaviour as a troubled teen are displayed in scenes such as the movie theatre scene, when he sees Frank the rabbit-man sitting next to him and his girlfriend. Donnie questions why Frank wears that rabbit suit and Frank replies by asking why Donnie wheres a human suit. Donnie speaks to Frank in an almost laughing voice, whereas is I saw a man appear in a rabbit suit, I’d be terrified. It is difficult to tell whether Frank is a figment of Donnie’s imagination or if he is real, but that is left to the viewer’s interpretation.

Since Richard Kelly wrote and directed Donnie Darko, he had a great influence on the entire appearance of the movie. Each scene is visually pleasing and effective. The effectiveness is displayed in scenes that include Frank by making Donnie and Frank nearly symmetrical. This is especially apparent when Donnie sees Frank for the second time in his mirror when he is taking his pills. The shot goes from Donnie facing the mirror to Frank facing Donnie, but since it is a mirror they look as though they are the same person, just with a different wardrobe. All scenes were either eerie or beautiful when they needed to be.

The sound effects were limited in this movie, since it had a minimal amount of CGI due to a low budget of $4.5 million dollars, according to Wikipedia. However, this does not take away from the movie, in my opinion, since the movie doesn’t need much high-tech visual imagery. The only two places where the CGI was important were when there was an orb coming out of everyone’s chest that showed where they would go next, and in a scene near the end of the movie, which I won’t spoil.

The soundtrack was a great aspect of the movie. Each song fit it’s respective scene perfectly. The greatest example of this is during the last scene when Gary Jules’ cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” plays, however I won’t give away why this is significant, since witnessing the scene for yourself is very powerful.

This movie is essential for anybody who likes movies that make you think. Though you may need to watch Donnie Darko several times to even attempt to understand it, the movie is worth the time. It is a beautiful and poetic movie that Richard Kelly should be praised for much more, in my opinion.

Kieran S. is a grade 12 student who adores artistic films.


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