Donnie Darko (2001) Poster



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  • Director Richard Kelly explains the events of the film in a commentary track in the Director's Cut. The answers to the questions of this FAQ come directly from Richard Kelly's comments on the Director's Cut commentary track and other official sources. Additionally, The Philosophy of Time Travel (POTT) explains a lot about the movie and is archived here. The POTT pages are hidden within the puzzles, and have also been added to the Director's Cut. The pages may be viewed, albeit with difficulty, on some DVD versions. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Some prefer the original release because it leaves much of the meaning of the events in the film to the viewer's own imagination, while others prefer the director's cut because it makes the film a little easier to understand. The choice is up to the viewer. The Director's Cut has about 20 minutes more footage, some changes to the music order in the soundtrack, as well as some new tracks and sound mixing, some new effects, and the insertion of pages from The Philosophy of Time Travel (POTT). The new scenes and the pages of the POTT explain more about the meaning behind the events in the film, but do not fully explain the events of the film. For a complete detailed list of the changes go to the Alternate Versions for this movie. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • It is possible that Donnie finds the odd places he wakes up amusing. It is equally possible that Donnie recognizes the nature of the time loop he is in and is laughing at his defying of death once again by showing up at the beginning of his own story. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • No. Director Richard Kelly wrote it during the editing stages of the film and was intending to incorporate it into the original version but time and budget constraints prevented this. Although the book Dr. Monnitoff gives to Donnie seems to have many pages, only those that are shown on the website and on the DVD were created by Kelly. The Director's Cut restores the original vision of the pages that Kelly wanted. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Beings from the future are manipulating and granting powers to Donnie Darko by sending him transmissions of some sort in order to fix a mistake they accidentally caused in time and space. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Richard Kelly states this in the DVD commentary (with Jake Gyllenhal): (1) Donnie laughs for the same reason the other characters were reflective at the end. As explained in the POTT, they have some memory, if not of details than of a feeling. And since Donnie saved the world by finally preventing the recurring time loop, it makes sense he feels great (even if he doesn't understand why, and especially since he doesn't realize he is about to die). (2) The journey through the Tangent Universe had solved Donnie's problem of dying alone through achieving enlightenment, and he subsequently knew he was going to "something better" (from his letter to Roberta Sparrow). He was therefore laughing through sheer joy and anticipation and didn't want to get out of bed. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Be aware, that there are actually two characters in the film called Frank, who look the same. One Frank is actually the boyfriend of Donnie's sister Elizabeth. This Frank is killed by Donnie and is known as a Manipulated Dead, because he was manipulated by the beings of the future and died as a result of this in the tangent universe. He drops off Elizabeth after a date (just before the jet engine hits the house). He drives past Donnie in his red Trans Am when Donnie is cycling home near the beginning of the film. He is on a beer run at Elizabeth's party (the notice on the fridge. Note the similarity with the "They Made Me Do It" handwriting around the school mascot). Note also that Frank does honk his horn in the first sequence as well, but he doesn't drive away the second time around. The other Frank, known as the Messenger, was created by the beings from the future, knowing that Frank was going to wear the bunny suit and that Donnie was likely going to kill him. Only Donnie can see the Messenger. The Messenger guides and instructs Donnie in the use of his powers. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Director Richard Kelly speaks of the beings of the future several times on a commentary track on the Director's Cut. These technologically advanced beings from the future are the ones that accidently caused the appearance of the jet engine into Donnie Darko's universe at the beginning of the film. They utilize advanced technology to manipulate and watch events of the past. Further, they have been shown to be able to predict the actions of others in the past. They are the ones that manipulate Donnie Darko and the citizens of Middlesex to set up a chain of events that they hope will get Donnie Darko to make the choice that will save all of reality. They use the Messenger as their ambassador in communicating with Donnie Darko. Although the beings from the future have always been a part of the Donnie Darko universe, their presence is more pronounced in the Director's Cut of the film. Several scenes in the Director's Cut show images and information displayed on Donnie Darko's eyes, almost like he is processing information like a computer. These are examples of Donnie Darko as the Living Receiver receiving transmissions from the beings of the future. The beings from the future are never shown in person and who or what they are remains unknown. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Director Richard Kelly put the phrase in the film to show that there was some kind of advanced machine someplace in the future at work, manipulating people and sending signals to Donnie in Middlesex. When Donnie mentions this in the film he comes to realize that there really is a deus ex machina. Donnie mutters, "deus ex machina, our saviour" as a car driven by Frank stops nearby, which startles his attackers and causes them to flee. The car acts as the deus ex machina; that is, the unexpected or improbable device that is introduced to resolve a problem, thus it is Donnie's "saviour." Edit (Coming Soon)

  • As background; at the end of the movie, after we go back to the point where the jet engine hits the house, we see Dr. Thurman wake up abruptly and look troubled, Karen Pomeroy asleep in bed with Kenneth Monnitoff (who is awake and looks concerned), Jim Cunningham sitting upright in bed sobbing, Kitty Farmer deep in thought, Cherita smiling, and Frank sitting on the floor touching his eye. Essentially the characters remember what happened from the future, but now closed, Tangent Universe. The "Dreams" chapter in The Philosophy of Time Travel confirms this: When the Manipulated awaken from their Journey into the Tangent Universe, they are often haunted by the experience in their dreams. Many of them will not remember. Those who do remember the Journey are often overcome with profound remorse for the regretful actions buried within their Dreams, the only physical evidence buried within the Artifact itself, all that remains from the lost world. Also, Gretchen and Rose Darko (Donnie's mom) seem to remember each other, based on them waving at each other at the end of the film. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Donnie empathizes with her character and feels a connection to Chen because he too is an outcast. The director mentions that Cherita Chen is getting verbally abused and that this is why she starts wearing the earmuffs. He also mentions that she acts as a catalyst for Donnie to realize who he really is, understand what his personal views are and what he must do. Her interactions with Donnie give us further insight into his character. Chen also likes Donnie Darko and has been keeping track of him at times thus being used as the eyes and ears of the beings of the future on Donnie's activities. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Similar to the previous connection, it's believed that she feels some sense of déjà vu when she sees Rose. We don't know if Rose or Gretchen ever met in the Tangent Universe, but even so, she might feel some connection with her and Donnie's family, in a similar déjà vu sense. After the scene of Donnie and his family discussing the Philosophy of Time Travel, you see Donnie and a girl in overalls jumping on a trampoline. You see Gretchen wearing something extremely similar to this after the second crash of the jet engine where she waves to Donnie's mother. This may be evidence of Gretchen and Donnie's mom/family having met before. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • "Deus ex machina, our saviour." Edit (Coming Soon)

  • The Philosophy of Time Travel's chapter "Dreams" states, When the Manipulated awaken from their Journey into the Tangent Universe, they are often haunted by the experience in their dreams.... Those who do remember the journey are often overcome with profound remorse for the regretful actions buried within their dreams... This is seen in the film during the "Mad World" sequence when Jim Cunningham wakes up sobbing with what appears to be guilt. To further prove this, hidden on (archived here) was a newspaper article about Jim Cunningham's suicide, which occurs in the Primary Universe on October 12th, 1988, just days after Donnie's death. Cunningham's suicide took place on the fourteenth hole of the Sarasota Heights Country Club golf course, which is where he first met Donnie.

    Also, Donnie did not fail in revealing him as a criminal because that was never his main goal. Frank told Donnie to burn down Cunningham's house, which eventually led to the discovery of his kiddie porn dungeon. This leads Mrs. Farmer to go to Cunningham's defence instead of on the trip with Sparkle Motion, causing Rose Darko to go on the trip instead, which allows Donnie and Elizabeth to throw a party. Frank leaves this party to get more beer and has to drive by Grandma Death's house on the way back, which is where Frank runs over Gretchen and Donnie kills Frank. Without this party, Gretchen wouldn't have been killed. So, according to the Philosophy of Time Travel, since the Ensurance Trap (Gretchen's death, caused by Frank) was successful, the Living Receiver (Donnie) is left with no choice but to use his Fourth Dimensional Power to send the Artifact back in time into the Primary Universe before the Black Hole collapses upon itself. So burning down Cunningham's house was much more important than Donnie revealing him as a criminal (although Cunningham's suicide shows that he still suffers for his actions). Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Richard Kelly states in the commentary that he cycled there, and the idea of the odd opening was to give Donnie's character a grand but strange introduction, as a foreshadowing of what's to come. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • From Monitoff's reaction, he was aware of Donnie's history of mental illness and it was a "diplomatic" way of ending the conversation. Donnie was becoming very agitated and his question started becoming a little insane. Other theories include: (1) Teachers cannot discuss religion or religious theories in school, (2) The school in the film required their students to wear uniforms, which may be a sign that it was a Catholic school. If so, Monnitoff might be concerned that discussing scientific theories which would dispute the existence of God or conflict with Catholic doctrine might not be allowed, thereby putting his job at risk. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • It's possible, although it seems a bit unlikely, since it would require Frank to be the offspring of a very young father. Of course, no one other than Richard Kelly knows for sure, and this detail has never been covered. It seems likely as, in the notes of "The Philosophy of Time Travel", Frank's surname is revealed to be Anderson. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • She's concerned that Donnie might be on the verge of a psychotic breakdown. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • In the deleted scenes of the theatrical cut DVD, and reincorporated in the Director's Cut, is a scene where Dr. Thurman reveals to Donnie that he's been prescribed placebos. Dr. Thurman is trying to help Donnie Darko without putting him on medication which could possibly have negative side effects. Further Dr. Thurman—who is being manipulated by the beings of the future—appears to know that there is something special about Donnie and is one of several people helping him fulfill his true destiny. However, Dr Thurman is not mentioned in the list of Manipulated Living at the back of "The Philosophy of Time Travel". Also, water is the element through which Frank Bunny reaches Donnie; when Donnie takes his placebos, he facilitates a connection with his messenger. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • In Donnie's previous session with her, he admitted to vandalizing his school and burning down Jim Cunningham's house. Dr. Thurman had to tell his parents that Donnie had committed a crime, as by law. It's believed that the session was the day before the party, although no explicit timeframe is given. According to the DVD commentary by Richard Kelly, if a minor confesses to a teacher or counselor that he has committed a crime in which no one was hurt, the adult must contact the child's parent. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Earlier in the film Eddie Darko refers to a gem collection that Roberta Sparrow used to be known for, stating that kids used to try to break into her house to steal them, so we assume that this is a reason for Seth and Ricky being there. The "real" reason, of course, is that they needed to be there as part of the assurance trap for Donnie, so they are also acting as the Manipulated Living; Ricky is a pawn of fate, as is Seth. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • To highlight Kitty's stupidity, she is getting confused with Lorne Greene, an actor who played a character in Bonanza. Graham Greene is the famous author who wrote "The Destructors", the short story that Donnie's class is reading, and which subsequently causes problems for the teacher Karen Pomeroy. Not to be confused with Canadian actor Graham Greene. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • It's suggested in the film that her mother was abducted and probably killed by her psychotic step father. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • In the Director's Cut, there is a scene where Gretchen refers to a cut on Donnie's neck. The cut comes from the scene with Seth's attack in the bathroom, although this appears to occur some time prior, so there may be an editing problem here. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • It mentions she worked in the Library of Springfield until 1929. This would not mean she had contact with "The Philosophy of Time Travel" as it was not published until 1944 according to Roberta Sparrow's obituary. No specific relevance is mentioned. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • In the letter to Elizabeth Hartford of the Rare Books Dept. of the Library of Congress, "Karen P. Monnitoff" (presumably Karen Pommeroy having married Kenneth Monnitoff) states that the Philosophy of Time Travel is being sent to Ms Hartford on specific instructions from her husband in the event of his untimely death. Karen states that Ms Hartford would know where to put it—"a place where they can never find it." The website alludes to Dr Monnitoff's work with the CIA previously to being a teacher. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • He is among the group of men who are identified as FAA agents. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Donnie Darko: 16 Elizabeth Darko: 19 Samantha Darko: 10 Rose Darko: 42 Eddie Darko: 44

    ...Donnie's birth date being 28 May 1972, as stated on the website. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • The movie is set in Middlesex county, Virginia. The film was filmed in Long Beach, California. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Richard Kelly has given various reasons for this. 1. It was a favorite time, when he was a teenager. 2. Very few films have been set in the '80s. 3. He didn't feel comfortable setting a teenage film now, with no knowledge of current teenage life. (It could also be a reference to Back to the Future as both movies take place in the '80s and the movie is also referenced at some point during the film—And let's not forget the DeLorean needed to reach a speed of 88 miles per hour in order to time-travel.) Edit (Coming Soon)

  • It was just an establishing shot confirming Prof. Monnitoff's statement about her teaching in Middlesex and giving her character and her book more "weight." Edit (Coming Soon)

  • As explained by Richard Kelly in the Director's Commentary, it is a vital part of the story. By entering through the door, Donnie and Gretchen are attacked, which enables Frank to kill Gretchen. This is also shown when cutting to the scene at Roberta Sparrow's house when the cellar door is shown for several moments. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • "For Whom the Bell Tolls", written by Steve Baker and Carmen Daye, courtesy of Associated Production Music LLC. This track is available as a royalty free track from Associated Production Music on one of their collections titled "Voicing the Classic 2". More importantly it can also be bought now on the 2-CD Donnie Darko soundtrack, currently only available in the UK. Note that this track is often confused with "Ave Maria", but this is definitely not "Ave Maria." Edit (Coming Soon)

  • "The Killing Moon", written by Will Sergeant, Ian McCulloch, Les Pattinson and Pete De Freitas Performed by Echo & The Bunnymen Courtesy of Sire Records/Warner Music U.K. Ltd. By arrangement with Warner Special Products (Plays during the sequence when Donnie cycles home at the beginning of the original movie. Note this is changed in the Director's Cut to "Never Tear Us Apart", by INXS. In the Director's Cut, "The Killing Moon" replaces "Under the Milkyway" during the party sequence)

    "Lucid Memory", written and Performed by Sam Bauer and Ged Bauer (Used during the "Cunning Visions" video)

    "Head over Heels", written by Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal Performed by Tears For Fears Courtesy of Mercury Records Limited Under license from Universal Music Enterprises

    "Lucid Assembly", written and Performed by Ged Bauer and Mike Bauer (Used during the "Cunning Visions" video)

    "Ave Maria", written by Giulio Caccino and Paul Pritchard, Courtesy of Associated Production Music LLC (Played in the background when Rose, Donnie's Mum, is talking to her friend)

    "For Whom the Bell Tolls", written by Steve Baker and Carmen Daye, Courtesy of Associated Production Music LLC (Plays during the sequence where Donnie is in the cinema with Frank and Gretchen, and also plays over the end titles)

    "Show Me", written by Quito Colayco and Tony Hertz, Courtesy of Associated Production Music LLC (Plays during Cherita's "Autumn Angel" sequence)

    "Notorious", written by Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and John Taylor, Courtesy of Capitol Records, Under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets (Sparkle Motion's dance track. Originally it was intended that West End Girls would be used, but the licensing cost was too expensive)

    "Proud To Be Loud", written by Marc Ferrari, Performed by The Dead Green Mummies, Courtesy of Marc Ferrari / Master Source (Plays at Elizabeth's party. Some sources tell me this is a version by Pantera. It is one of two songs that were left off of the 2-disc soundtrack. The second is "Voices Carry" by 'Til Tuesday)

    "Love Will Tear Us Apart", written and Performed by Joy Division, Courtesy of Warner Music U.K. Ltd., By arrangement with Warner Special Products, (Plays at Elizabeth's party, prior to Donnie going upstairs with Gretchen)

    "Under the Milky Way", written by Steven Kilbey and Karin Jansson, Performed by The Church, Courtesy of Arista Records, Inc. Courtesy of Festival Mushroom Records Pty Ltd. (Plays at Elizabeth's party, when Donnie and Gretchen come downstairs, but only in the original version. In the Director's Cut this plays on the car radio when Donnie and his Dad are talking)

    Note that two tracks (as mentioned above) used in the rough cut of the film shown at the Sundance Film Festival were West End Girls, by the Pet Shop Boys (replaced by Notorious in the original and Director's Cut) and Never Tear Us Apart, by INXS (replaced by The Killing Moon in the original cut, and reinstated in the Director's Cut).

    "Stay" by Oingo Bongo. (Only in the Director's Cut, and plays on the radio while Donnie is talking to his sister in the kitchen)

    "Voices Carry", by 'Til Tuesday. (Note this is playing on Donnie's radio during the scene where he calls his mother a "bitch" on the Director's Cut. It's the other of the two tracks from the film not on the more complete 2CD soundtrack, the first is "Proud to be Loud" by Pantera) Edit (Coming Soon)

  • It was not possible based on the initial limited release of the film and the expensive requirements for licensing to release a soundtrack with these songs. However, a two-CD soundtrack has appeared for sale in the UK (with a release date of 4 October 2004) which contains both the original soundtrack CD and a large number of tracks (but not all) from both the original and Director's Cut. Follow the previous link for a complete track listing. Note of course that there is still the original soundtrack for sale with the original tracks by Michael Andrews, and the rearrangement of "Mad World" sung by Gary Jules. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • In a sense, no film is very similar to Donnie Darko, and it's that sense of originality which made the film very popular. However, here are some films that fans have suggested: Source Code (2011), Los cronocrímenes (2007), Frequency (2000), Heathers (1988), Southland Tales (2006), The Nines (2007), The Sixth Sense (1999), Twelve Monkeys (1995), A Beautiful Mind (2001), A Scanner Darkly (2006), American Beauty (1999), Blue Velvet (1986),Brazil (1985), The Butterfly Effect (2004), What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? (2004), I Heart Huckabees (2004), City of Angels (1998) (remake of Der Himmel über Berlin (1987)), Contact (1997), Dark City (1998), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Fargo (1996), Fight Club (1999), Tideland (2005), Gattaca (1997), Heavenly Creatures (1994), Identity (2003), Jacob's Ladder (1990), Final Destination (2000), K-PAX (2001), Lost Highway (1997), Memento (2000), Mirrormask (2005), Mulholland Dr. (2001), Naked Lunch (1991), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Abre los ojos (1997) (remade as Vanilla Sky (2001)), Pi (1998), Pretty Persuasion (2005), Primer (2004), Requiem for a Dream (2000), Lola rennt (1998), Silent Running (1972), Slaughterhouse-Five (1972), Solaris (2002), Stay (2005), Stir of Echoes (1999), Sybil (1976), The Final Cut (2004), The Fisher King (1991), The Game (1997), The Good Girl (2002), The Ninth Gate (1999), The Prisoner (1967), La science des rêves (2006) (The Science of Sleep), Twin Peaks (1990), Unbreakable (2000), Waking Life (2001), Der Himmel über Berlin (1987) (remade as City of Angels), The Jacket (2005), La cité des enfants perdus (1995),He Was a Quiet Man (2007), Soul Survivors (2001), The Machinist (2004) and The Chumscrubber (2005). Edit (Coming Soon)


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