Friday, July 23, 2004

Donnie Darko answers

Salon answers questions about Donnie Darko (and being Salon, you have to watch a 15 second ad to read the article.) The article basically proves to me that the director's cut of the movie will explain too much. However, none of it will be stuff I didn't already know from the Web site, the Donnie Darko Book, and the DVD commentary. And seeing it all written out this way, I have to say I think the movie is better ambiguous. (Not that that will stop me from seeing the new version.)
Here's one of the more interesting q&a :

Couldn't you interpret this whole movie in another way, without any sci-fi stuff at all? As sort of a subjective rendition of Donnie's descent into paranoid schizophrenia?
Absolutely. A number of my friends read the film this way and feel it is a far more interesting interpretation of the events of "Donnie Darko" than the dominant sci-fi narrative. Certainly aspects of the film -- the flatness of affect in Donnie's meetings with Frank, Donnie's increasing menace and the way the mechanics of the plot revolve so explicitly around typical teenage sexual hang-ups -- support a reading of the film as Donnie's Descent, shown from inside his head. Even the careful tying-together of the plot doesn't necessarily negate this read; one trait of the budding schizophrenic is the creation of coherent, if unlikely, narratives tying together the hallucinations and paranoia often manifested as part of the illness.
That said, I'm not dealing too much with this read in these Cliffs Notes because it seems to me that through his supplementary materials and his director's cut, Richard Kelly is pushing viewers to accept the primary narrative -- the sci-fi, Tangent Universe narrative -- as the "proper" way to interpret the film. We can argue all day about whether Kelly's decision is clarifying or foolishly reductive. Many of my friends think that the film is far richer as an exploration of madness than as an "Escher thriller about freaking wormhole bullshit," as one friend so succinctly put it. Conversely, I myself am much more interested in watching a clever sci-fi flick with good '80s tunes than another inside-the-nutcase's-head movie, and so I'm perfectly happy to have Kelly attempt to clarify the intentions of his plot a bit. Kelly himself has spent years crowing about his film's careful ambiguity, so I'm interested in why he made the additions he did to the director's cut, additions that serve primarily to make the film far less ambiguous.

Personally, I don't care for the crazy teenager version of DD either. I like the science fiction better, but it still doesn't do it for me. I think there's a third interepretation out there that no one has mentioned yet. I'll have to watch the film again and contemplate. (That's what makes it so fun anyway.)


Anonymous said...

Oy. Here we go can you say the film will
explain too much...if it's all stuff you have gleaned
from wading thru tons of "Donnie Darko officially
licensed minutia"? "There's even cryptic notes embedded
in each roll of Donnie Darko bathroom tissue!" Please.
A film SHOULD be a complete experience unto itself, and
I for one am hoping that these additions will transform
the film from the flawed, muddled mess it is to something greater.
You go, Mr. Kelly!(Fanboy rants be damned.)

Brian said...

I'm not ranting! I just think his answers are too pat. That ambiguity of the film is important to it. That's one of the things I loved about it. All that stuff I gleaned later, I enjoy it, but I didn't want it to be enshrined in the movie. However, I'm more than ready to wait for the film and make my decisions then. I'm more than happy just to get the chance to see it in theaters.

Mr. Faust said...

I'm looking forward to seeing the DD director's cut, too, to see if some of the big kinks get ironed out of the last 10 minutes.

I think Kelly's mistake was depending on other media to fill in the details on what was missing in the film. The movies have been a viable medium for telling a complete story for more than a century. We shouldn't have to work through the puzzle of a web site and read the book and listen to the director's commentary in order to figure out what on earth is going on.