Donnie Darko is my favorite film to watch during the Halloween season. It is creepy and takes place in October. Also, the soundtrack kicks butt.
My affection for the movie goes beyond the great setting though. What really draws me are the theories and discussions surrounding the movie.
At first glance, the plot is confusing and nonsensical. Even then, the movie is great. The characters are interesting, the romance is bold, and the humor is just right.
After reading up on the movie, one starts to realize it is not just a movie. It is a poem.
I have watched Donnie Darko many times, and each time I have noticed new details. When I notice something new, I consider how it plays into the plot.
If you haven’t read up on Donnie Darko theory, click this link for a good overview.
I could discuss my own theories and observations about the movie for weeks. I won’t do that, but when I watched the movie today, I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before.
Donnie goes to the movie theater with his girlfriend, Gretchen Ross. While watching The Evil Dead, Gretchen falls asleep, and Donnie sees Frank. Frank tells Donnie to go burn down Jim Cunningham’s house. Donnie does what Frank tells him. As he exits the movie theater, the theater marquee in the background shot says, “The Evil Dead,” and below that, “The Last Temptation of Christ.”
Those words, “The Last Temptation of Christ” are the hinge of my theory. I’ve noticed the placement of the words before, but hadn’t thought much about their role in the plot.
At first, it appears that “The Last Temptation of Christ” means Frank has tempted Donnie (the savior figure of the story, the “Christ”) to burn down Jim Cunningham’s house. I believe the temptation is the opposite of that. Donnie is tempted to not burn down Jim Cunningham’s house.
Jesus Christ actually overcame His last temptation. He did not succumb to it.
If burning down Jim’s house is the temptation, then the “Last Temptation of Christ” sign doesn’t make sense because Donnie did burn Jim’s house down. If burning Jim’s house down is the temptation, Donnie succumbed to temptation, unlike Jesus Christ.
Further evidence supporting my theory is the fact that Donnie is always thinking about girls. This is made evident in one of his hypnotherapy sessions.
At the theater, Donnie was sitting right next to his girlfriend. That is paradise for a teenage boy. That is what Donnie really wants. He wants to stay right there with Gretchen. However, if he stays, the world will not be saved.
The world will not be saved because Donnie will not have a strong enough reason to save it. Donnie will not have a strong enough reason to save it because he will not have to save Gretchen. He will not have to save Gretchen because Gretchen will not get hit by Frank’s car. Gretchen will not get hit by Frank’s car because there will never be a party. There will never be a party because Donnie’s mom will not be out of town. Donnie’s mom will not be out of town because the mean dance coach lady will be able to chaperone. The mean dance coach lady will be able to chaperone because Jim Cunningham will not be on trial. Jim Cunningham will not be on trial because he will not be busted with child porn. He will not be busted with child porn because the firemen will not find his secret porn stash. The firemen will not find his secret porn stash because Donnie will not set his house on fire. Donnie will not set his house on fire because he succumbed to his temptation to stay with Gretchen.
Donnie is tempted to stay right there with Gretchen because he knows, as Frank states in the theater scene, what is going to happen. Donnie knows he will die if he does not burn Jim Cunningham’s house down.
Donnie is tempted to not burn Jim Cunningham’s house down. Like Jesus Christ, Donnie overcomes the temptation in order to save the world.
That is my theory about the meaning of the sign behind Donnie when he exits the movie theater. Any Donnie Darko fans/theorists out there, what do you think?
P.S. I wrote a song about Donnie Darko a couple years ago. If you understand the movie, you will understand the song. You can listen to it on my YouTube channel.