Sunday, September 11, 2005

Donnie Darko - A Great American Anti-Hero










Man, do I love this movie. I just searched through half.com for a cheap DVD copy of it so that I can own the movie, even though I've probably seen it about 4 or 5 times now. I forget exactly how I got turned on to it; I think I may have perhaps read a reference to it in something like salon.com, and thought, well that sounds quite interesting; some themes and ideas that were right up my alley. So I checked it out from the library, and I was blown away. The film captured so much of my take on the nature of many things, the ambiguity of existence, a favorite theme of mine (and the writer Thomas Pynchon)in a thoughtful and even very moving way. I feel and believe that most other fans would also say the same. The film has a deep spiritual quality or dimension to it, right below the surface, but it doesn't in any way pound it into you. If you're in tune with some of the deeper material, you'll get "it"; if not, you won't (isn't that how life is, though?).

Donnie is a troubled young man (marvelously portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal), who has, let's say "visions" of a prophetic and world-altering nature. The great thing about this film is, you never know for sure what the source of his visionary experiences might be, although there are hints, and probably as many theories or versions of this as there are fans of the film, now hailed as a cult classic (it came out in 2001). As I say, Donnie's visions are of an apocalyptic and global nature; which is something that many schizophrenics experience in their delusions or hallucinations. But, is Donnie a schizophrenic? Is he a visionary prophet? Could they perhaps be one and the same thing? It is left to the viewer to decide, to interpret, to make an always less than satisfying attempt to determine (which I find strangely satisfying).

The film also includes an eclectic cast, including Drew Barrymore as a teacher who is frustrated that her young students may be being "mislead" by today's American society and its culture, as well as a polished Patrick Swayze, an odd choice but perfect in its oddity, portraying a New Age nonsense spewing self-help guru, full of vacuous platitudes and "build yourself up" advice, which the children are forced to listen to, by Swayze and another, "right-wing" teacher, herself full of vacuous, pseudo-patriotic nonsense, mixed in with thin New Age "isms".

Donnie, at one point, challenges the falsities being layed upon the students by an adult generation that is fixated upon the superficiality of our society, a superficiality which is covered over by a false spirituality (I think perhaps , a reference to those "Christians", amongst others today, who follow such things as free-market principles in the name of Jesus, and who would die of terror if Jesus ever showed up at their doorstep. If you see the film, think Pat Robertson/Patrick Swayze, plus their followers, whom we've all met before). Donnie is a student at his school who is somewhat marginalized due to his "strangeness", but it is just that strangeness that you soon find makes him stand above the mediocrity around him. This film is a challenge to just that mediocrity, which if I think about the present, permeates our society from the very top (you know what I mean here, if not look at the banner near the top of my page) to the person that voted for said mediocrity that is eating their ham sandwich at lunch in the cubicle next to yours (not to dis' cubicle life, as I too have been encased in the 4 sided reality before, and may be yet again, but you who have been there know what I mean).

The film operates on so many different levels, the real possibilities of science fiction in our lives, the nature of reality, as a critique of our current state affairs, and so much more. It's set in the late 80's, so there's some great 80's references, and some great '80's music (and, I don't even much like 80's music, so that's saying something!), and being set in the era of Reagan, it's really a subtle (or not so) critique of the present. Above all, its message is a spiritual one, at least in my view. The truth, whatever that might be, lies deeper than what is at the surface, and only those with the courage to dig deeper will ever have a glimpse of it.

Warning: Don't view the 2004 Director's Cut, or at least not first. View the original 2001 version. The Director's Cut takes the storyline along a narrower path, and provides more "answers", if you will, which actually takes away from the power and mystery of the original. At least view 2001 first, then maybe 2004, and then you can decide.

4 Comments:

Blogger willowtree said...

I vaguely remember seeing this movie, but just very vaugely, I think something a plane, something fell in the guy's family's roof?
At that time, I couldnt stomach movies, and had the attention span of a 1 year old where movies and TV was concerned.
Maybe I'll try again, now that Im doing better with the movie thing hehe.
Ive only read good things about the movie though.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

That's the one; a plane engine does fall out of the sky in the movie. Take a second look at this; I think you might be impressed by it in any number of ways.

11:30 AM  
Blogger GC (God's Child) said...

why have I heard aout this movie? Okay, I will check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

12:12 PM  
Blogger DIE! DIE! said...

I love that movie! It's one of my favorites.

1:16 PM  

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