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Donnie Darko (2001)
time travel incidental
i've seen donnie darko several times and i think the time travel questions in the movie are incidental. i think the entire movie is basically donnie realizing he's going to die and him fighting his fate. he is shown, through the characters in the movie, what could happen if he chooses not to die. i also think there's his fear of dying alone without wrapping up the loose ends of his life that has made him create the distraction of time travel to try and explain the unexplainable. i think the characters in the alternate universe are symbolic of his fears and questions about life and he's trying to resolve those fears and questions before he actually dies. that's why i think he laughs at the end....b/c he was able to resolve the loose ends and die without regret.
my simple theory does not answer several questions though.......part of it is we have no idea what donnie's life was like before the jet engine crashed through his room. so all of the people in the alternate universe are probably people he had some sort of relationship with previous to the start of the movie and that's how they play certain roles in the alternate universe. i don't think there was any literal time travel happening. i think the time travel story line was just donnie trying to explain the unexplainable; i.e. the mystery of death. i think the time travel storyline was created by donnie. i think frank was symbolic to donnie of his fate. i also think the portals that came from several characters during the movie are symbolic of that person's soul or their path through life. oh yeah, and i also think that donnie shoots frank at the end of the movie b/c he realizes that the universe was not real but all in donnie's head just before he's to die.
i loved the symbolism throughout the entire movie and wonder about some of them: when the two teachers are in the lounge and the male teacher says "donnie darko?" and drew barrymore's character says "i know". i have no idea what that scene means in the movie.
also, the jogger in the orange suit is staring at donne and his girlfriend when he wants to kiss her and then that same jogger is standing out front of donnie's house during the halloween party. he also flashes his flashlight into the camera, similar imagery that frank's glowing eye had throughout the alternate universe story.
also, the scene after donnie and gretchen walk down the stairs at the party and donnie follows the portal to the kitchen where there's a note that says "frank was here, went to get beer".....there was a strange cut after that and then suddenly gretchen was standing there and it seemed like some time had passed so what happened during that span of time?
i don't know....just some thoughts. my simple explanation doesn't explain lots of other things in the movie