Thursday, June 30, 2011

Donnie Darko: A Phenomenology

Note: This blog entry is not a film review per se.

Late but better than never, just watched Donnie Darko The Director's Cut (2004; the theatrical version was released October 2001) on Blu-ray.  We saw the theatrical version in 2001 on VHS and I have to admit that I didn't care for it as much.  Granted, it was different, but it left me feeling somewhat dissatisfied.  I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was that I was sensing to be lacking, but now I know: There was a director's cut yet in the making, rippling from the future ethers back into the past; synchronistically, somewhat like the transtemporal storycycle of Donnie Darko.

The director's cut has 20 minutes added to the theatrical release, making the movie about 130 minutes. The additions slow the movie down to a nice, shamanic pace; scenes of pages from the arcane time-travel book fill the screen with intriguing, evocative statements that explain what's been happening behind the scenes, so to speak.  The director's cut now has some meat, so to speak again, that the theatrical release was sorely lacking.  It's amazing what a little 20-minutes more can do.

The transdimensional path of Donnie is one that is far too treacherous and dangerous for anyone to take, let that be said right off the bat.  He is a Hero of the subtle, who has no one to guide him; he has no tools to transmute or sublimate his circumstance.  Thus he teeters on the brink of schizophrenia, that perilous twilight-zone of sinister forces, but rises, in all eventuality, to the state of consonance, even with that which he cannot understand.  All his visceral actions become annulled in the end, and return back to their origin.

The movie is almost on the right track in creating a neo-myth and a new god-hero for contemporary beings, but falls prey to the ancient mythic chreode of the dying-and-returning god (Orpheus, Dionysus, Christ, et al.); Donnie's return is not physical, but in the world of dreams to bring awakening to those who spiritually slumber, fear to those who are evil, and comfort to those who are oppressed.  He too goes down the rabbit hole---following the guidance of the hyperdimensional dude in the wacky Halloween rabbit suit---of cosmic mysteries of time that he has no way of understanding. But he tries.  His schoolteachers are useless and powerless; one progressive teacher provides him with synchronicities, but even she is out of the mix.  Donnie's case is far removed from conventional knowledge. 

His only hope is the hermit crone who had already taken the journey, wrote a book about it, and had spent her remaining years reeling in the limbo of the Present.  But alas, fate has her to be inaccessible, and finally, Donnie knowingly goes to his death, laughing hysterically, a bona fide Hero in the true Joseph-Campbellian sense, with no personal benefit whatsoever to be gained.  It left me feeling nothing but sorrow for Donnie.  He was deep, he was kind, he was super-intelligent and wise; he wanted to love and be loved.  But there we go again, that old archetypal chreode kicks in, and indeed, Donnie the Hero of subtlety, is left in the lurch of the ancient motif of tragedy, yet another cathartic agent of aporia.  

I say enough already; let us move away from the paradigm of tragedy to the paradigm of Comedy. Let the Heroes live.  As the Age of Aquarius is yet in its dark dawn hours, let Novelties begin to arise. Let the introverted shamans, of whom Donnie Darko is an avatar, take their inner journeys unscathed; and in the end, in all eventuality, like Donnie Darko, let them harm none.