This is probably the first proper cult classic I have wrote about. It is very surprising I am writing about this Richard Kelly film. After been released on October 26th 2001 in the US it bombed fairly spectacularly at the box office and only after a full worldwide release barely scraped its budget back of $4,500,000. If you sold this film today you could have, Seth Rogen, Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal on the poster and people would definitely go and see that movie. But this was Seth Rogen’s first feature film, Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal although not their first feature film it was one of their earlier works and people definitely weren’t searching them out at this time. Along with the unfortunate release date been so close to the 9/11 this appeared to be a film which disappears from people memory very quickly. However, fate was on Donnie Darko’s side, both Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal turned into major stars and out shining both of them was Seth Rogen. Also the cover of the song ‘Mad World’ (composer Michael Andrews and singer Gary Jules) which features in the film reached number one in the charts in both the UK and Portugal. This lead people to look up where this song originated and lead them back to Donnie Darko. So now you know how Donnie Darko became a cult classic, let me tell you why it is a great cult classic. Unlike most cult classics.
Spoiler free plot bit
Donnie Darko stars Jake Gyllenhaal as the eponymous hero of the tale. He is a very troubled young man on a cocktail of drugs to try and keep him calm. However, when he meets a human sized rabbit called Frank (James Duval) who tells him the world is going to end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds, things in Donnie’s life start to unravel quickly. He manages to escape been crushed to death by a mysterious Jet turbine which falls through the house and straight through his bedroom because he was out sleep walking… Things only continue to get stranger from there as he quickly starts seeing strange funnel shaped things coming out of people’s body, what these things are is a mystery. That is pretty much all you need to know for the setup of the movie, watch the movie and draw your own conclusions about what you think is going on.
Why it is great bit
The performance by all the cast in this movie is sensational. You can really see the star quality shining out of all of them and any reason to watch a Patrick Swayze picture is always a good thing. One of things that makes this film so beautiful is the lateral tracking shot and the beautiful editing between the scenes. See video below for details on the power of the Lateral tracking shot. Once you have watched the film go back and look at the scene where ‘Mad World’ is playing and you will notice that really the shots don’t have a tremendous amount to do with each other. It is just edited and put together with the perfect sound to make you think they seem relevant to each other. This is masterful editing by Sam Bauer and Eric Strand.
Another reason I think it has become such a cult classic, is that it is a movie you can talk to your friends about after you have watched it and try and figure out what the hell is going on (see link below of Terry Gilliam on Schindler’s List). Following Mr Gilliam’s lead I will bring up 2001 A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968). One of the reasons people love that film is what does any of it mean you can debate for days and probably come no closer to the truth if there is a truth. A similar sort of thing could be said for Donnie Darko. Its ending (again no spoilers) seem to set up the fact that all of what you have been watching might have been a dream a vision a alternate reality. But then that ask so many questions because the realities seem to have had some sort of interaction with each other. The point is that you need to watch this with a friend and try and work out what is going on and once you have worked it out let me know.
Thanks for reading come back next week.
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