Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fate Up Against Your Will

For a couple days last week I had been wanting to rewatch one of my favorite movies, Donnie Darko. So when I had a day off from work yesterday I finally did. And I told myself, "I'm not going to bother to blog about this one." Because anyone who's seen Donnie Darko knows, it's kind of (i.e., VERY) hard to wrap your head around. But when I woke up this morning I decided I was going to give it try anyway.

One of the best things about any work of art is the way it can impact the people who consume it. For some people watching a movie is just something to do to kill time. And that's perfectly fine if that's the way you like to watch movies. But I like to take everything in. Some might call me weird but I think it's entirely possible for a movie to have a profound impact on your life. And Donnie Darko was that movie for me. The universe made a little more sense to me after watching it.

After watching the movie yesterday, I was browsing through the special features and ended up watching the trailer.

Had the trailer been my first exposure to the movie, I don't think I would've felt any urge to see it. It wasn't bad, per se, but there was nothing engaging about it. I actually ended up watching it through sheer randomness. I was hanging out with a friend during the early days of the semester one year, and he mentioned that some of our other friends wanted to watch Donnie Darko. And I ended up sticking around while they watched (like I said, it was the early days of the semester, so I wasn't inundated with homework yet) and by the end I was completely enthralled. I remember going online and trying to find whatever I could to help me understand it more. (By the way, there is an archive of the official site here. It'll wrinkle your brain even more.) I wanted to watch it again so I could try and pick up on things that I missed. To me it was like one big mystery that you were still trying to solve even after all the pieces were laid out in front of you.

It's funny that my introduction to Donnie Darko was through sheer randomness, because that's kind of what the movie's about. How the little things that happen to us can actually impact our lives in a profound way. How getting out of bed at particular moment can actually save your life. How a busted water main can actually lead you to meet the love of your life (whatever that might mean at 16). How words written on a chalk board in school can lead to certain doom. And it also poses the question, if we knew what the future had in store for us, would we still make the same decisions, and take the same actions?

What I love about Donnie Darko aside from its brain wrinkling abilities, is the way it doesn't fall into any one particular genre. It's an existential science fiction movie about young love and troubled youth in upper middle class suburbia that takes place in the 1980s but it's not defined by any one of those things.

This quote, said to Donnie by his therapist, is my favorite bit of dialogue from the movie and is actually the thing that helped shape my perspective of the world.
If the sky were to suddenly open up, there would be no law, there would be no rule. There would only be you and your memories. The choices you've made and the people you've touched.
It just makes so much sense to me. And I feel like it's the kind of philosophy that can help everyone live a better life, regardless of what your faith or beliefs might be.

Or if that's too deep for you we can always close with this gem:


  1. The closest I have ever come to the concept of TIME TRAVEL is the movie, "Back to the future". By writing about Donnie Darko, you have made us look at the concept from a different angle. Time Travel now seems like a choice that we have in our hands. At least some of us might feel that way, especially if we were to change our decisions based on the knowledge of our future. I am sure that I would do some of the things differently if I were given the choice of going back in time and doing them all over again.

    Excellent review and interpretation of a story line that would otherwise seem like a movie about a disturbed young man.

  2. Oh, this is the film that almost put me into a mental asylum. I watched the film in total amazement and when it finished I was in total silence for about an hour. I had, and still have no real idea or clue what it was about. This film has haunted me. The name Donnie Darko sends shivers down my spine.
    I'm glad that you was able to give me a little help in seeing what this film was about. Thanks because nobody I know has been able to explain it.