Thursday, 4 February 2016

Donnie Darko (5 Stars)

"Every living creature on this Earth dies alone".

This is one of the best films ever made. If I were asked to name my favourite films of all time I would put this in second place, after "Lost Highway". The two films are similar as far as the underlying plot is concerned, even though there are big differences on the surface.

In my review in November last year I said I would give the Director's Cut another chance. I've watched the original version repeatedly over the last 12 years, but I only watched the director's cut once after buying it. It seemed weaker to me. Today I've finally returned to it after at least 10 years.

After watching it again today I no longer consider the director's cut inferior to the original version. It's different, but not inferior. I think that I disliked the director's cut when I first saw it because it took all the mystery away. When people saw the original version it wasn't 100% obvious what was happening. People argued about the interpretation, just as they still argue about the meaning of "Lost Highway" today. In the case of "Donnie Darko" help was offered. The DVD extra features included excerpts from Roberta Sparrow's book, "The Philosophy of Time Travel". This text explained a lot. It put a lot of arguments to rest. It could be argued that it's wrong to make a film that can only be understood after reading a book in the DVD extras, but it wasn't a problem to me.

The director's cut explains the film to the viewers within the film itself. At critical points excerpts from the book are shown on the screen. Now it's easier for everyone to understand the film. I must have found it too easy when I first saw the director's cut. That's why I disliked it.

Apart from the addition of text from Roberta Sparrow's book the changes are subtle. There are a few new scenes, but mostly the existing scenes are longer. There are frequently one or two lines of dialogue that are cut from the original theatrical version. It looks like the cuts were only made to shorten the overall running time, not to streamline the film. Adding the extra lines helps, with the sole exception of Dr. Thurman admitting that Donnie's medication is placebos. That doesn't make sense to me. Yes, I know he's not really ill when he says that he sees the giant rabbit, but he was diagnosed as mentally disturbed prior to Frank's appearance.

At some time in the near future I'll try to watch the two versions on the same day to make a better comparison.

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