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Occasional Writing for T36 – Donnie Darko

April 25, 2013

Donnie Darko

Okay, Donnie Darko is hard to understand. I get that. So I’ve written up a few ideas here. If you find yourself confused, you might want to have a look. Here are some prompts to write on:

  1. Why does Donnie have to die in the primary universe (if, indeed, he does)? In trying to answer this question, it might help to remember that in conversation with Dr. Thurman, Donnie claims that “the search for God is absurd…if everyone dies alone.”
  2. Kenneth Monnitoff claims that “If we were able to see our destinies manifest themselves visually, then we would be given a choice to betray our chosen destinies. And the mere fact that this choice exists would make all preformed destiny…come to an end.” Donnie responds that this is false if we “travel within God’s channel.” What does he mean? Is he right?
  3. Donnie Darko engages quite a lot with Back to the Future, as I try to establish here. Perhaps most importantly – the heroes of the two films use time travel to try to save the lives of those they care about. What do you make – philosophically – of these connections?

Please choose one – and only one  – of the prompts to write on. As always:

  • Please limit yourself to 300-500 words;
  • Please post your assignment as a comment to this blog entry;
  • Please do all of this no later than 24 hours before class begins on T36.

From → Assignments

  1. Micah Patten permalink

    Response to #1
    The significance of Donnie’s death in the primary universe has interesting implications from the tangential universe. The first question is whether his death was necessary at all. He seems to be the pivot point around which the universe was created, and so perhaps, in order for it to be destroyed, all ties had to be broken with the primary universe. This would include Donnie.
    As far as his actual death is concerned, his greatest fear seems to be to be alone, and in the end, it seems that the only way to not be alone is to die alone. The only one who would be with him if he chose to live would be the ghost of Frank, a memory of who he had murdered and who had killed his love. The choice seems clear that he would rather die, which seems to be an interesting solution. The majority of the film describes what Donnie can see into his future in the moment that he wakes up (or dreams) in the night. It seems almost to be a ripple, or defect in the fabric of time that creates an infinite loop. If Donnie lives, he kills Frank and everything spirals into the world collapsing which causes an engine to fall from the sky. Donnie would not have died if those events didn’t transpire, but he also would not have been saved except by the ghost. The only solution, then is the death of the one who departs the natural order of time, which in this case is Donnie, which perhaps is why the engine hits his room. The film seems to describe forces of nature that have a tendency to right themselves. In this case, the defect of time is righted by the consequences of that defect, namely the engine killing Donnie.

  2. I’d like to respond to the second question posed.

    Thank you for asking this question!!! This was the first thing my brain tried to wrap itself around when the movie had finished. I think this question gets at the heart of the paradox of free will… If we all have a preformed fate, then there is nothing we can do to change it, because whatever we do is a part of that fate…. However if we introduce the knowledge of what that preformed path is, we now introduce the ability to deviate from that predetermined path. Deviating from this path means the end of all preformed destiny, because by deviating from your path, you’ve now rerouted EVERYONE and I mean quite literally EVERYONE else’s paths… effectively creating an offshoot away from whatever preformed fate had existed. This is what happens when Donnie doesn’t die because he is sleepwalking. It ultimately results in the death of his girlfriend and “Frank.” This type of scenario is what brings Monnitoff to his point- the mere existence of this choice shatters the idea of preformed destiny, since means the preformed destiny can be deviated from. HOWEVER, I think that Donnie is spot on when he says this is not true- that our preformed fate does not have to be shattered, so long as we choose NOT to deviate from it. If we choose to stay strapped in and follow “God’s channel,” the whole continuum keeps on going and everything happens the way it supposed to according to our preformed destiny. Since Danny chooses to go BACK in time and accept his fate (being crushed to death by a falling air plane engine that slipped through a wormhole from an alternate timeline), everything continues along “God’s Channel,” and his girlfriend and Frank are unknowingly spared.

    For what it’s worth, I found it fascinating that the most ironic part about this whole situation is that Danny’s motive to accept his fate in one time line is the direct result of the feelings which he developed in an alternate timeline… Making his death in the other timeline, somewhat pointless… because he is not dying for someone who loves him, or that even knows the sacrifice he made. The only way this can result is through paradox… the existence of a “bridge” or wormhole from another timeline. This lends credence to the statement that “everyone dies alone,” because that’s exactly what Donnie did.

    Holy crap. My head hurts. I’m going to stop writing now.

  3. Uddit Patel permalink

    1) Donnie has to die in the primary universe for his family, himself, keeping other out of danger, and for his future girlfriend Gretchen. Donnie has to die in the primary universe because the same events will occur again of Donnie having the mental images of Ghost Frank. If Donnie does not die, he will end up alone, and have the guilt of all the negative things he has done like burn down Jim Cunningham’s house, and flood his school. Donnie has to also die so his family can be hurt less. If Donnie remained alive, his family will go through a lot of trouble like having to deal with his usual bursts toward people in the family. Donnie was smart as seen by the principal’s reaction to his test scores, but his mental capabilities would have led to him going crazy and hurting more people. Donnie would have also been alone in the world where Gretchen dies because of Frank’s car. Donnie admitted to his psychologist that he was scared of being alone in life, and that his only friends are Frank and Gretchen. However, Gretchen’s death by Frank leads to Donnie losing both friends. If Donnie does not die in the primary universe, he would still have Ghost Frank trying to warn him about the future. Ultimately, Donnie does not understand what the “end of the world” represents. The time Ghost Frank gives represents the time that Donnie losing two close friends.

    Another thing that helps represent this question better is Donnie claims that “the search for God is absurd…if everyone dies alone.” God should be helping everyone find the right person so they are not alone. However, if someone ends alone, is there really good? Is God helping people for their best? Everyone dies alone because there is never a situation where both the husband and wife die together as romantic like The Notebook. Instead, there is always one person who dies leaving the other alone. This quote can be analyzed as God does not help this process of a person being alone or not. Roberta ends ups alone where she is constantly checking the mailbox.

    Donnie staying alive can lead him to go to prison. He would be hurt by killing the person he loves. If the future was not portrayed to Donnie, what would happen? Would he still be on the journey to travel the future? Would he have gone to Roberta’s house where his girlfriend and Frank die? Donnie would have a different outlook and he could have had a “normal” life like his two sisters. Donnie could have been with Cherita where he helped her when his friends made fun of her and even tried to talk to her. Cherita could be portrayed as a person that could help Donnie if she talks back to him. Cherita could have been the person in his life where he would not have the nightmares of Ghost Frank. Basically, Cherita could have been Donnie’s angel as portrayed in her dress during the talent show.

  4. kim cory permalink

    I think in this movie, God is like the symbol of the ultimate image that has all the answers for every question Donnie has. During the movie, Donnie asks numerous questions to the rabbit guy –it ranges from simple questions like ‘why are you wearing the suit?’ to more complicated questions like ‘what happens after 28 days?’ Although some questions get answered, the movie ends without answering all the questions. Although Donnie is an intelligent person in the movie, he cannot answer all the questions. And I think that’s what drives him insane and that’s why Donnie is trying to travel within God’s channel. After the “defeat your fear” assembly, Donnie becomes really frustrated and cannot stop talking about how Jim Cunningham’s theory on defeating fear is wrong and how his answers do not make sense. Also, in the gym class during the fear-love exercise, Donnie gets angry at the teacher because he does not think life cannot be simply divided into fear and love categories, and there are too many variables that interfere with simplifying life. I saw Donnie as a guy who sees everything as A is B because of C. He wants everything to make sense logically without any superficial rationales. And seeing the destinies and choosing own destiny have become superficial rationales. He could not answer those questions – just like he could not get the answers from the rabbit about the future and the incidents he cause. Among all those events, he sees God as the ultimate answer. Because he does not know what God is capable of and because he feels his limitless power being a human, he sees God as the answer key to everything. He thinks if he can get into God’s level, he can control everything and see everything so that he can draw logic out of his life.

  5. Cory Johnson permalink

    I have not a clue how someone could begin to comprehend what happened in that film without something similar to your handy pre-viewing guide. What is the basis for all of these rules? I instinctively want to blame the Nolan brothers because the Gyllenhaals are around…

    1. It would seem that the living receiver does not need to die because “Grandma Death” / Roberta Sparrow was almost certainly one herself. The encyclopedic knowledge of the rules of time travel that went into here book must have come from personal experience.

    The question then becomes, why then did Danny die? Honestly, probably because it makes for a better film. The young photogenic male sacrificing himself for the greater good generally fares well at the box office. But, I’ll pretend it’s about existentialism for the sake of this assignment.

    “The search for God is absurd… if everyone dies alone.” This implies that the search for God is not absurd if someone does not die alone. Who’s not dying alone? That must be Donnie. Where did our troubled youth find his purpose in life, his absurd struggle against the cold indifferences of the universe? He finds loves in young Ms. Gretchen. This love enables him to kill Frank, allowing him to become his spirit guide of sorts, but it also gives him a reason to save the primary universe. So he climbs he climbs the mountain, transfers the artifact and saves the day.

    Until it lands on him. Since I have already determined that his death is not necessary it seems a bit odd that he would not save himself to have more time with the girl he loves.

  6. John Decker permalink

    What Donnie is getting at is that pre-determinism, destiny, can exist with the element of choice being present in life. How is this possible? It is possible because although it seems that the element of choice being present, like Monnitoff says, destroys the possibility of destiny being possible and being the controlling factor in our lives. However, in the way that Donnie uses destiny in the movie pre-determinism with choice is possible because he chooses to be in the destined route, or as he calls it God’s channel. Donnie through his visions has the possibility of thwarting his fate; however, by ending up in the same place and time as the original jet engine incident he falls back into the pre-determined path for him and is killed just like he was originally supposed to be and therefore has remained in God’s channel. On the matter of whether or not he is right it is tough to say. Without time travel this is not really possible and, also, without the visions that he has with Frank the chance to escape fate is impossible. For us, we generally accept that time travel is not yet, perhaps, a possibility and therefore we cannot go back and change our fate. Also, although things like de ja vu happen, we generally accept that we cannot envision our future and make moves to change the outcome. Therefore, it seems that in our understanding of the world, the possibility that we can choose to remain on God’s channel, whatever God may mean to you, seems an impossibility. Then we must conclude that the “correct” response to fate is that it depends on a person’s belief. No one can prove one way or the other and therefore it is not a set way. Donnie, though, in his set of circumstances is correct and can choose to stay on the path of fate.

  7. With Kenneth Monnitoff’s statement that we are given a choice to betray our destinies if we are able to see them develop in front of us, visually, which means that he is saying that if we are able to physically see what our destinies will be, then we are able to witness the process of our destinies being manifested. By witnessing our destinies being formed in front of us, we could see what we could or could not do in order to keep that specific destiny from happening the way that it had been previously planned to happen. For example, Donnie Darko is able to follow his destiny and witness it being developed throughout the whole movie with the help of “Frank” who is actually the person that Donnie would have ended up killing, supposedly. Because Donnie was able to see his entire “destiny” play out to the very end of his life-the end of his world- he was able to make the choice to stay in his bed when the engine hit his room. By doing this, and by supposedly making a change to his destiny, Donnie was able to save his mom, sister, girlfriend, and Frank from dying. Although this makes sense for the movie, I believe that even if Donnie was able to change the destiny he saw play out in front of him, the fact that he was able to and going to make that change was also predestined for him. Therefore, I think that no matter what choice Donnie could have made, that would have been his destiny in the first place…even if he through he made some sort of change to his destiny for better or for worse. I think that we are given choices in life, but ultimately, our destiny is our destiny. At least that is how I chose to analyze the movie, so the fact that Donnie sacrificed his life for others was, in fact, his destiny. For me, Monnitoff is not right.

  8. Prompt 2: Monnitoff’s point is moot. If we are aware of what will happen, we could theoretically change our destiny, in which case predestination would not exist. However, the point that Donnie Darko makes is similar to the one from Oedipus Rex: knowing our fate does not change it, because if we know our fate, we were destined to know our fate, and from that point our decisions will bring about what we try to avoid, no matter how hard we try to avoid it. In this way, what will be will be, no matter what we do. This is not to say, however, that predestination supersedes free will; they are not mutually exclusive. If we can theoretically know the future, one could argue that in this case, free will does not exist because what will happen has already been determined. However, the fact remains that we still have the free will to make whatever choices we desire, and the foreseen future is the result of the choices we will make. It is a prediction, if you will, a possible outcome among thousands. The easiest way to understand this that I have found is in the sixth Harry Potter book, when Dumbledore informs Harry that although there are millions of prophecies in the Hall of Prophecies, not all of them come true because the future has so many interrelated threads; change even one, and you change the entire future. Similarly, not all visions of the future will come true because of the complexity of our decision making ability. By this reasoning, we can have foresight of the future, as in Donnie Darko, and simultaneously have free will. Because the two are not mutually exclusive, they can exist at the same time without being in conflict with eachother.

  9. Taylor Warren permalink

    Prompt #2:

    The idea/theme of destiny in “Donnie Darko” was confusing at first, but after some additional research I think I’ve ironed out at least most of my concerns. It seems that the whole point of the film revolves around Donnie setting things straight in this Tangent Universe so that the Primary Universe can carry on as normal. When the Tangent Universe is created, it puts Donnie’s friends and family in danger… if he is not able to “reset” the universes and put the airplane engine through his own window, then Gretchen and Frank will stay dead and life (for Donnie and other characters) will stay off its destined track forever. Somehow, Donnie knows this, and despite the fact that he becomes aware of his own destiny, chooses to carry it out instead of bending it towards his will. When Donnie talks about travelling within God’s channel, he must mean that there is a supernatural/divine way to unfurl your destiny even if you know about its existence. There must be some way to alter or deviate from the true form of human nature (to alter your destiny if you knew about it) and instead follow God’s design or plan for your life. Donnie knows that if he does not die in the Primary Universe, then catastrophic things will happen to those that he loves. In order to save them, Donnie travels through God’s channel, he carries out what he needs to, in order for the engine to come through his window in the Primary Universe, killing him but keeping everyone else’s destinies safely in the balance of the universe. To an extent, yes Donnie is right about time travelling, destinies, and God’s channel. Though not everyone would call it “God’s channel” there certainly seems to be one correct path that destinies should follow, or else there would be an infinite, possibly cataclysmic, ripple in the universe, disrupting the flow of time. However, the real question to me seems to be… if that happened, if Donnie were to travel outside the channel of God and everyone’s destinies seemingly changed… would they even be conscious/aware of it? Would they be able to tell that such an altercation in the Tangent Universe had occurred?

  10. Simeon permalink

    I think that the teacher, Mr. Monnitoff has a fair and difficult to argue point in his response to Donnie. Though the floaty destinies Donnie can see do show a person’s future and the extensions are not too impressive in their extension from the self, at the very least they still do show the future. If there was a way to see a person’s floaty destiny, then how one interacts with it would speak to the nature of choice. To follow it would seem the most obvious action. To know where it pointed but to choose to neglect its direction and turn in the opposite direction would be Mr. Monnitoff’s point, thus betraying the chosen destiny.

    Donnie counters this by saying this is not true if we “travel within God’s channel”. I think that Donnie may be suggesting the clockmaker approach to God. He suggests in his argument that God is in control of time, thus I would say time is God’s channel. Thus because God controls time, any choices made within his set area of control are not really choices but something God allowed to occur. Another way of looking at it is by looking at time as a river once again, and people as fish. If a fish swims straight down that river we see it as following a set destiny. If the fish thinks to itself, I have a choice and instead swims left to right in serpentine fashion, the fish may think it is choosing something different, but the current of the river still brings it down stream, thus from the outside we see it still obeys the river’s “will”. A true mark of choice would be for the fish to leap out of the water and begin walking. Similarly, a true mark of free will for a person would be to remove oneself from the stream of time and then proceed to act.

  11. Monica Hottle permalink

    So I’m going to start off this writing by stating the fact that this movie confused me beyond all reason. I read through the “guide” that was posted and my mind has been successfully blown. Good movie, but what the eff was going on??
    In response to prompt 2: Monnitoff basically says that if we know our fate, there is a way to evade destiny based on our actions. Donnie, however, responds that this is a false statement if we travel in “God’s channel.” I assume that Donnie is making a theological implication; that we do not control our fate, but rather a spiritual figure does. In the film, Donnie is able to witness the death of his loved ones; with these visions and the aid of “ghost” Frank, he was able to take actions that would ultimately lead to his own death, but not the deaths of his loved ones. However, going back to the reference of a “God” controlling fate, was Donnie predestined to save his loved ones? It is not common that there is a re-occurring figure who presents someone with information regarding their fate; in this case, the figure of Frank to Donnie. I think that it is a possibility that Frank was an intentional figure that presented Donnie with specific events that he knew Donnie would respond to. Although everyone has their own concept of ethical thinking, Donnie’s actions of sacrificing his life to save multiple lives (that were loved ones) is what I would call ethically correct – one life was lost as opposed to multiple lives. So even though Donnie is presented with fate and he takes an action to change the outcome, there is part of me that believes that Donnie was predestined to take the actions that he did (based on his ethical reasoning).

  12. Ben Vowell permalink

    The reasons for Donnie’s death are not apparent at the beginning of the 28 day tangential Universe. This is what confused me the most about his death at first. He essentially dies because during his stint in the tangential universe; he becomes an arsonist, murderer, and loses his love. This is only because of his tendency to sleep walk in the primary Universe. When you realize that Donnie has nothing to live for in the tangential universe anyway and that his mother and sister will now be killed on top of everything else, you realize what Donnie realizes when he laughs lying in his bed. He has the chance to make everything in the past 28 days a vague memory for everyone in the primary universe and erase everything bad that happened to him, minus his living through the appearance of the artifact. He dies alone in order to be selfless to those in the primary universe. It seems as though he has made the “search for God” obsolete in his own reality, and will die alone after having lived closer to people than he ever did in the primary universe. It’s ironic and twisted, something I think Donnie finds humorous.

    Donnie seems to have given meaning to his own life finally. It has something to do with seeking and finding I think, although it is a sinister injunction in religious terms in my opinion. He was free to make a decision within his own “channel” of existence and chose to end his own life in order to save everyone else’s. I’m rambling now; hopefully we can make sense out of this in class.

  13. 2) Donnie is two things. One he’s learning about time travel. He doesn’t understand how it works, and being younger and impressionable, he may be led to believe that God makes people change time, instead of their own consciousness. It almost seems like Donnie believes the predestination is a form of religious rite, like only the elite can figure out how it works, making the reclusive Roberta Sparrow some kind of apostle or disciple This fits with most images of God’s “working in mysterious ways” as the quite unassuming Roberta Sparrow is the one who holds the secret to what Donnie needs to know. Because of this God-fueled inspiration, once Donnie realizes that he is the anomaly between the two timelines, he takes it upon himself to send the artifact back, even if he doesn’t know why, through the use of the manipulated dead, etc. Gretchen seems to be his inspiration to send the engine back (mostly because he is in love with her and watches her die, obvious wants to keep her from doing so) yet ironically is bent on the idea that every living thing dies alone. What would the point be in letting Gretchen live or letting Jim Cunningham avoid being discovered? Here’s where I feel the irony exists in the film, since Donnie’s reestablishment of the original timeline (the one where he dies) undoes everything he’d done in the film. Or at least that’s how it seems, perhaps I’m still confused on this point (despite having seen the film multiple times). If Donnie’s mission was God-given, like it appears Donnie is led, in some capacity, to believe, why would Donnie go through with it, given the monumental changes to both his life and the town’s life? Cunningham would continue to have his “kiddie porn dungeon,” and Kitty would still be the (pardon my French) asshole she is…
    Hence I don’t think Donnie has the omniscience to be able to change his own path the way he believes he can, due to the fact that he is still operating with the confines of what he believes to be predestination. For all intents and purposes, the casual loop could continue indefinitely even if he realizes he is the anomaly. The manipulation of the two timelines makes them almost interchangeable but only in those two scenarios (the output has two possibilities: 0 being Donnie’s death, 1 being Donnie’s life).

  14. Matthew Drake permalink

    Prompt #2

    Donnie Darko, when told that if we were able to see our future, then we have the chance to change it, responds that we can’t because we are travelling within God’s channel. This theory clashes with the idea of free will and the ability to choose our own paths. Donnie is referring to the idea of predetermined harmony and the fact that our lives are in a linear path.

    Is Donnie right? he might be if you believe in a higher deity that controls our fate. In the Christian religion, there is the belief that God chooses your path and has a plan for you. You follow this linear path, and any mistake or bump you encounter is “all part of God’s plan.” Donnie is brought up in Christian school, as it seems. So the idea of predetermined harmony is logical in his eyes.

    However, if you don’t believe in a higher being that controls you, then you don’t agree with this idea of predetermined harmony. The term destiny is a joke to you. You believe in the idea of free will and the ability to choose your own path. To travel in “God’s channel” is to believe in destiny. Neither one is absolutely correct because we cannot prove that God doesn’t exist, although many philosophers have. To ask if Donnie’s theory is correct is like asking if chocolate cake tastes good. It’s all a matter of personal opinion and belief. Some philosophers would side with Donnie, mainly Leibniz. Some would agree with me that destiny doesn’t exist, mainly Harry Frankfurt, Descartes, and, most importantly, John Locke. The answer lies solely in your own belief system.

  15. Theodore Kruczek permalink

    3) The reason that science fiction films frequently refer to time travel as a means to saving those they love is the same reason that many films explore the idea of living for ever and bringing back the dead. Humans fear the things they cannot control and are always looking for a way of controlling their lives or finding someone (pick any god in history) who can manage their lives for them. Time travel is just another hope to have a way to control the past. It is appealing in the same way that praying is – I am afraid of my current situation and hope there is some undiscovered science that can help me change my life.

    I think it is interesting that while these heroes use time travel to save someone they love, I think it is interesting that we often forget that they do not have completely selfless reasons for their efforts. Donnie may have saved those that he loved – but wouldn’t it be more “heroic” if he closed the alternate universe to save the world, rather than to save the few he loved?

    Some comments have mentioned that god is the symbol of everything Donnie is looking for in life. I agree completely. God is the defacto answer for all of the things we simply have not been able to explain in life. Questions like “why are we here” have been asked no matter who the popular god at the time was. I think this film sidesteps these questions by creating an arbitrary scenario where the universe splits, one person becomes solely important (with powers over water and fire), and that person can save everyone and unnecessarily kill himself. Much like the god answer, this film skips over big questions about life by creating an exciting and unfounded story (fire and water powers….really?).

  16. Seth Rodgers permalink

    Prompt 2

    Donnie is apparently alluding to his surreal experience where a liquid path emerged from his core, guiding him to an unknown destination. According to Donnie’s theory, what stretched out before him was God’s intended path for his life. To follow that path would mean to relinquish control and accept a predictable destiny which could in turn be revealed to him. Monnitoff argues against Donnie’s theory by stating a noteworthy conundrum: the simple act of seeing your future would alter your behavior and hence make that future impossible to realize.

    Monnitoff’s rebuttal hinges on two key assumptions: First, he presupposes that we are imbued with free will and would have the ability to resist the upcoming future. In other words, he discredits the notion of fatalism or determinism (pick your poison). His second assumption is that one’s future self—whether observed or simply existing in the world previewed—would not have been privy to the same revelation as ones present self looking into a wormhole. To paraphrase, the future seen through a wormhole would continually be taking into account everything happening in the present, consequently meaning that a future would have to shown which could only be materialized if viewed by the individual. Determinism or fatalism would therefore be a premise of that scenario.

    In his conversation with Mr. Monnitoff, Donnie seems to take the middle ground on determinism versus free will by arguing that we can choose to either embrace or reject some form of predestined path guided by God himself. Assuming that Frank is a trail guide sent from God, Donnie appears to have been right since the demonic bunny’s instructions are based on predicted future outcomes, such as uncovering Jim Cunningham’s secret life as a pedophile. Nevertheless, it remains questionable whether or not Donnie ever had a choice to follow Frank’s suggestions given the drug induced, semiconscious state which he continually woke up from in a stupor after carrying out any given mission.

  17. John Yang permalink

    While Donnie Darko is similar in many ways to Back to the Future, particularly in the resemblance that the protagonist seeks to change his present/future by utilizing the plot device of time travel. Despite this, there are some key differences between the two films in the philosophy of what effect these two individuals really have on their own lives and timelines. Marty McFly, in his attempt to fix his family’s lives (in a way, saving them from their bleak fates of pathetic uselessness in his father’s case and alcoholism in his mother’s case), travels back and intervenes in their lives to pave new paths for them. Donnie Darko has only one choice in the matter of affecting the lives around him, or at least he is led to believe so after he faces all the decisions he had made that led to the fates of those around him, like Frank’s death and Gretchen’s death—and that choice is to, in effect, take his own life so that those around him could continue on. The salient difference to remember here is also that Donnie was originally supposed to die, but he did not because of Frank’s intervention. Donnie’s suicide at the end of the film is the correction from the tangent universe back to the primary in order to resolve the original divergence caused by Frank and Donnie’s meddling in the primary universe’s timeline. Interestingly enough, Donnie’s act of tearing the jet engine through the portal from tangent universe to primary universe would have resulted in the deaths of his mother and sister in the tangent universe, but in actuality, he saves their lives, as the tangent universe ceases to exist when he merges the two, and the jet engine to fall onto his room is not the actual jet engine from the plane his mother and sister are aboard—it is the one from the tangent universe that ceased to exist.

  18. K.Rengan permalink

    To Donnie it must be that God’s channel represents the real universe in which events happen in a determined state far from the knowledge that Mr. Monnitoff claims will give you free will. The future, or alternate, universe in which Donnie is operating allows him to see events unfold in the determined manner which gives him the choice to follow it or not; this is a universe where Frank acts as some sort of god-like entity. I believe that Donnie chooses to follow the path that he sees in front of him, which is noted when he appears to see Gretchen’s future at the Halloween party. Why he does this is a mystery. It could be that he realizes that he must die within the real universe and thus events must unfold the way they are meant to or, the events truly transpired without his knowledge and he is acting in a way that he believes is altruistic. The first notion spawns from whatever entity Frank is. It could be that Frank is a way of answering Donnie’s questions in the moments before his death –the answers of human emotions, greed, and sadness. Evidence of this could be by Frank’s one eye being shot, a symbol of an Oedipus type knowledge in one universe and unknowing in another. The second notion comes from Donnie’s conversation with Cherita Chen as he explains that he will save her from all the hurt she has experienced in her life. This part of the film seems open ended and unanswered. Finally, the event that muddies up most of the movie is where the plane engine comes from in the first place. This begs the question: are there multiple universes where Donnie sent back the plane engine in the first place, or was there just a time slip with portals coupled with the bad storm?

  19. ricardochavez permalink

    Donnie has to sacrifice life in the primary universe because the benefits obviously outweigh preserving himself in the primary universe. The events become cyclical because of the the ghost Frank and living will also leave him alone which is his worst fear. All the events occurring in the case of his survival are horrid and Ghost Frank will constantly tell him that so long he doesn’t just die in his primary universe. Additionally, if he does not die, he will have a less favorable future and additionally hurting all the people he does not want to hurt in his life. Obviously sacrifice has to come in. Donnie is struggling with the knowledge of the future and must realize that dying will save everyone he loves and Ghost Frank and Gretchen would no longer be torturing him so long he is still living. Essentially Donnie needs to break the cycle in order to find peace, and the only way to do that is to die just as he may be yearning to do. However, in the end, Donnie is just really torn and the emotional solution is his death, while the logical and stoic way to deal with it would be to just keep living and take advantage of whatever time you have left. But i guess we are forced to taking the sad and confused route with this film.

  20. Caroline Martin permalink

    Prompt #2: Donnie’s response to Kenneth Monnitoff’s claim is correct only if we accept the concept of fate as finite. If fate is finite, then “God’s channel” cannot be questioned. Donnie is assuming that no choice exists in “God’s channel” because, if choice existed, then Monnitoff would be proven correct. I argue that Donnie is correct in assuming the existence of a “God’s channel.” This idea is easily supported by the fact that the purpose of Frank and Gretchen, the manipulated dead, force Donnie into an Ensurance Trap in which he must transport the jet engine from the tangent universe into the primary universe. If Donnie had not removed the tangent universe from existence, the primary universe could not exist. Therefore, in order to fulfill the objective of the primary universe, Donnie is subject to “God’s channel.” Without this channel, there is no existence. Without existence, there is nothing and we would not be discussing this prompt. To refute Kenneth Monnitoff’s proposal, it completely contradicts itself. The idea of destiny implies a single path (in this case Donnie’s “God’s channel). If we were presented with two paths, a choice, then the idea of destiny is blown out of the water. Monnitoff recognizes this when he says, “…all preformed destiny…come to an end.” Therefore, if we assume that the “choice” is part of Donnie’s singular path of destiny, then we see that it is not actually a choice by definition. The concept of choice only exists to fuel our idea of purpose. If we, as humans, cannot at least imagine that choice exists, then purpose is erased and life is reduced to a state of being. In conclusion, Donnie is correct in assuming that IF (big IF) everyone is subject to “God’s channel” of destiny, then preformed destiny exists along with the perception of choice.

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