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Monday, August 08, 2005

But, Y'Know, What Does It MEAN?

I saw Donnie Darko for the first time on Saturday night. It's not the kind of film I'd normally watch, but The Buddy declares it his second favourite film of all time, and raved about it non-stop when he saw it, so I figured I'd see what all the fuss was about.

I still don't know.

Seriously, what the hell is it about? I have absolutely no idea. As we approached the last half hour, I assumed that the final fifteen minutes would explain it all. I felt I'd be left with an explanation. I wasn't. I was left with a headache.

I don't deal well with films that make no sense to me - that appear to be weird for the sake of being weird. It's the reason I didn't like Being John Malkovich, and it's the reason I didn't like Donnie Darko. My brother teases me that, for me to enjoy a song or a film it has to make sense - it has to have a meaning. He's right. They do. And Donnie Darko doesn't.

I texted The Buddy immediately afterwards, somewhat angry that I'd sat through two hours of nonsense on the basis of his recommendation. I asked him what it was about. He said he has no idea. That just made me even more frustrated. When pushed, he said it's about time travel and self-destiny.

Another friend of mine, who'd watched it and considered it over-rated, came up with an alternative explanation, but admitted he'd given up trying to follow the plot halfway through. He feels it's the classic "I don't understand it, therefore it must be good" scenario. I agree. See also: "It means whatever you want it to mean."

On Sunday, I went to see Whisky. I didn't really get that either. I tell ya, when did it become good for a film to make so little sense?


  • At 10:50 AM, Blogger Fizzwhizz said…

    If it's any help, I read somewhere the other day that apparently Donnie Darko deals with "complex themes including schizophrenia"! So if that helps to make any more sense of it (sure don't for me, as the only schizophrenic I know has never shown any inclination to dress up as a big bunny) then that's good.

    Sorry but I'm in the 'I can't pin it down, that's why I like it' camp. Lots of meaning is always better than a trite ending as far as I'm concerned - I really hate the books of Ian Banks, for example, because he always has loads of interesting weirdness and then explains everything and ties up all the loose ends in the last chapter which reduces it for me.

    Imagine if Shakespeare had tagged a little epilogue onto the end of Henry V going 'prithee, folks, that was all about fatherhood, destiny and what it means to be a king, by the way' or Salvador Dali had put a little note at the bottom of his tree sculpture that said "Hola, these drawers, they're all to do with Freudian theories of psychoanalysis, just in case you didn't get it - oh and by the way, fish". Wouldn't that rather diminish the enjoyment of experiencing the work of art from your own perspective and drawing out your own meaning from it? Think how much worse it would have been if they'd tacked on some horrendous Hollywood audience-pleasing ending.

    I love the way DD doesn't make total sense. I love the random old lady and Drew Barrymore being all portentous and weird. I love the way the whole film is like being on acid. Or is it? Aha! I love the way it's not limited by 'real-world' concepts such as linear time. I love the protagonists' conviction that someone somewhere knows what's going on - which then makes the audience feel that somebody somewhere knows what the film 'means'. I love the way it represents the confusion and paranoia of adolescence. And I'm going to stop now because I'm on the brink of a dissertation and I really must go and do some work.

    I guess in conclusion, what I'm saying is, relax, skin up and just enjoy watching the thing, people. Wanting to pin down some big old convenient meaning for it is just your need to control it.


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