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Donnie Darko: Fear and Love

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    Donnie Darko is a movie with deeper, greater meaning than the material that is presented. Throughout the movie, there are many reoccurring themes and ideas. These ideas resurface to remind the viewers of the messages that are weaved within the script. These ideas that constantly resurface quietly and secretly help to shape the character’s within the movie. Without these existing ideas, the personalities of most the characters would completely change. Without these themes, Donnie Darko would not even be the same movie.

    That is why these themes and ideas play a huge role in developing the characters, the character’s roles within the movie, and the movie in itself. Donnie, the main character in the movie, is a pretty strange outspoken teenager. Certain scenes within the movie help us to get a grip on Donnie and what makes him who he is. For example, the scene where Gretchen, Donnie’s girlfriend, first enters class suggests that Donnie is charming in a sense. At least, Gretchen seems to think that Donnie is charming or somewhat attractive.

    Also, in another classroom scene, we get a real look into Donnie’s brilliance and the function of his brain: “A storm is coming, Frank says. A storm that will swallow the children and I will deliver them from the kingdom of pain. I will deliver the children back to their doorsteps and send the monsters back to the underground. I’ll send them back to a place where no one else can see them except for me, because I am Donnie Darko” (Donnie Darko). This is the poem that Donnie reads in Ms. Pomerroy’s class. It shows Donnie’s mind at its greatest potential.

    The quote shows Donnie’s thinking ability as well as the darkness that consumes his soul. The funny thing about the quote is that it basically summarizes the whole plot to the movie. The whole idea behind Donnie’s time travel is so he can prevent the people he loves from being hurt. Within the poem, those people are represented as children. As the viewer knows, Frank, Donnie’s imaginary friend, has given Donnie a specific date and time that the world will end. The world ending is represented by the storm and Frank is represented as a monster within the poem.

    The idea that Donnie will send the monsters back to the underground suggests that Donnie has a plan to overcome these monsters and rid the world of Frank’s evil plague. Ironically, Donnie explains within the poem that the monsters will be sent to a place where only Donnie can see them. So another interpretation of the poem is that it is about Frank and Donnie’s run-ins with the creature of destruction. The movie has two major themes that pop-up sporadically multiple times throughout the movie. Love and fear are the two binding themes that create and shape the characters.

    It’s ironic because there is a scene in class with Mrs. Farmer where Donnie suggests that there are always more feelings that need to be taken into consideration besides only fear and love: “Okay, but you’re not listening to me. There are other things that need to be taken into account here. Like the whole spectrum of human emotion. You can’t just lump everything into these two categories and then just deny everything else” (Donnie Darko). This statement by Donnie is ironic because he is afraid throughout the movie.

    Also, the actions he takes at the end of the movie are done out of love for his friends and family, while all the actions that he performs for Frank are done out of fear. Another important thing to take notice was when Donnie started realizing what was happening to him. Once he realized his current situation and started to learn more about time travel, he wrote a letter to Roberta Sparrow. The contents of the letter were about time travel, but a specific part of the letter points out that Donnie has some questions he needs to ask her about what is going on with him.

    The only problem with this is Donnie is afraid to ask her because he is afraid of what her answers will be. Another important character in the film is Gretchen Ross. Gretchen is the new girl in school and quickly becomes Donnie’s girlfriend. Gretchen plays a weird role because her character is defined by the products of love and fear. For example, when Donnie first tries to kiss her and she does not want to. She explains that she wants their first kiss to be memorable and beautiful, but there is a fat guy watching them from afar. Love plays a huge part in her making that statement.

    At the same time, Gretchen is imprisoned with fear. An example of this would be at the end of the movie when she goes to Donnie’s house and explains to him that her mother is missing. She explains that she is scared and that she thinks her stepfather abducted her mother. Throughout the movie, Gretchen does and says many things that are a direct product of her own fear. Another example of her fear would be when she and Donnie are presenting their product in class and the two Bullies, Seth Devlin and Ricky Danforth, start to make fun of Gretchen about her stepdad stabbing her mom.

    After class, Gretchen sprints to the door with Donnie trailing closely. As soon as both Donnie and Gretchen get outside, she turns to Donnie and kisses him. This scene helps to shape Gretchen’s personality a lot. It shows that every time fear arises or pain sinks in, she turns to Donnie for comfort. With the exception of Donnie, no character is as important throughout the movie as Frank. Frank controls Donnie’s actions. He is responsible for all the injustices that Donnie has partaken in. Two examples are when Donnie busts the sewage system and when he burns down Jim Cunningham’s house.

    Both of those actions were proposed by Frank. Also, every time Frank appears in a scene, something weird comes over Donnie. Donnie gets a creepy look where he shrugs his shoulders with his head slightly hanging. At the same time, Donnie stares through his eyebrows. This look is captured by a close-up shot which Karen Gocsik describes as a shot in which a face or object fills the frame. Close-ups might be achieved by setting the camera close to the subject or by using a long focal-length lens (Dartmouth). At the same time, the camera is changing its focus between Frank and Donnie.

    It shows some sort of barrier cutting Donnie from making any sort of physical contact with Frank which is why the camera changes between the two characters. The Dartmouth website defines this as cross-cutting. Cross-cutting is jumping back and forth between two or more locations, inviting us to find a relationship between two or more events (Dartmouth). In this scene, Frank seems to taunt Donnie and make his life miserable. Donnie, in utter disbelief, stares through the barrier that has him trapped in the bathroom. While that is going on, Donnie is poking the barrier with a knife. As that happens, Frank’s eye seems to light up.

    This was a pretty essential part to the movie because in the end, Donnie shoots Frank in the eye ending Frank and the pain that he has caused Donnie. That was a form of foreshadowing and it played neatly into the movie. Love does not play any part in Frank’s role throughout this movie. Everything that Frank is and all the work he is doing is based on fear. All of his plans are driven and powered by fear. That is how Frank gets Donnie to devious actions. When Frank appears, Donnie remembers the date that Frank said the world would end. Frank hints at the idea that Donnie has the power to control his fate.

    Being that Donnie doesn’t want to die, he listens to Frank hoping that it will somehow stop Frank from ending the world that Donnie has come know. All of Donnie’s actions devious actions throughout the movie are powered by Frank and the fear that he puts into Donnie’s eyes. Even when Frank and Donnie converse, the viewer can sense the tension and smell the fear that takes a hold of Donnie. Frank’s character is so enticing because he seems so unreal. Something about his character pulls the viewer in, whether it is his unique role in the movie or his tasteful and cynical personality.

    Frank’s personality is just odd and creepy which is what is so attractive and fascinating about him. He leaves viewers wanting to know more about his character. “Donnie: Why are you wearing that stupid bunny suit? ”, “Frank: Why are you wearing that stupid man suit? ” (Donnie Darko). This was one of the first times that Frank appeared in the movie and that is what he had to say to Donnie. The quote shows Frank’s mysterious ways. In a way, Frank is kind of mocking Donnie. He is showing his dominance in the role he plays in Donnie’s life. That is important because it helps to shape the relationship between Donnie and Frank.

    Donnie Darko is a fascinating film that focuses directly on love and fear. No three characters demonstrate the theme of love and fear as much as Donnie, Gretchen, and Frank. In every way, all three characters are direct products of love and fear. Fear and love bring the characters together through the events that take place and the past that brought them all together. Even though each character is different, they are all similar in the ways that fear and love shape their lives. Fear and love are the two main themes that hold the movie together and make it what it is. That is why fear and love are so important.

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