DONNIE DARKO (Richard Kelly, 2001, USA)
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
Lewis Carroll-Through The Looking Glass
Donnie falls through the looking glass darkly towards the end of the world, his perceptions distorted by psychotic fugues: does Frank the black hare lead him towards salvation…or self-destruction? Director Richard Kelly has crafted a remarkably transcendental narrative that questions the very philosophy of human existence and our place in time, and shrouded the enigma in an innocuous high-school melodrama. Donnie Darko’s mentor is Frank, a six-foot tall bunny rabbit that, like Jimmy Stewart in HARVEY, can only be seen by the protagonist. Unlike Stewart’s pooka, this creature’s motives are not so well defined and Donnie finds himself lost in a lonely world of disconnected relationships and angst, his Jabberwock guide with glass-black eyes, jaws that bite and claws that catch! A film that demands repeated viewings and remains lovingly vague, allowing each viewer to reflect and stand in uffish thought. Frank’s eerie beckoning call saves Donnie’s life and time begins to unwind; he is given the date of the apocalypse when the sky will open up and swallow reality. As the film unravels, Donnie’s behavior becomes more erratic…but he begins to discover himself, buried beneath the numbing medication and hypnotherapy, where the cure kills the self while saving the whole, leaving an empty shell of a boy. Donnie is living and breathing, making human connections and falling in love, his actions inspired by the phantom hare to make change, to sow a form of creative destruction. Donnie’s fate is like the flight of a sparrow through the cellar doors of hell, ending with a snicker-snack that leads him galumphing back towards his chosen path, and he chortles with joy because he understands he will not die alone: he carries with him forever the good deeds and companions, the lives he has touched, and in a crescendo of foreknowledge realizes his sacrifice has saved his true love. (A)