'Donnie Darko': Scene Analysis

by Nicole Farrell 2 years ago in movie

Scene Analysis

'Donnie Darko': Scene Analysis

The scene I decided to focus on was ‘wake up’, as I found this one the most artistic and believe there are many ways to interpret much of what happens. The second scene in the film, it is the one where Frank first appears, though the interaction between Donnie and he is rather minimal.

The scene begins with a sinister yet ghostly voice that urges Donnie to wake up, though it’s particular sound implicitly suggests that its owner is some kind of entity who isn’t entirely within the realms of existence as we know it. As we later learn, Frank isn’t completely within the boundaries of a normal human being no matter what our interpretation of his character’s meaning, therefore this is significant.

The lighting is almost non-existent in the initial shot, creating an effect where Donnie is barely visible, making him appear menacing as he leaves his room. The demographics will view him as a mysterious character who is hard to read, as we quite literally struggle to make him out in the almost pitch black room. This blends well with the unpredictable nature of the film, the ending being infamously confusing.

The music throughout the scene is particularly heavy and threatening, yet relatively subdued which suggests an oncoming climax which works to build tension and leave the viewer with a sense of anticipation despite not knowing what to expect, often making the eventual product more effective.

When we see Frank for the first time, the camera transitions between both characters with the use of fades—an interesting technique. This implies a deep connection between the two, perhaps Frank is a part of Donnie for example. The theme of the supernatural is continued through the distortion of the images which leads us to further believe in the inhuman qualities displayed by Frank. Alternatively, both characters may be being used as imagery to represent the unstable personality of Donnie, and Frank may, in fact, be a metaphor for his mannerisms.

Donnie’s reaction to the announcement of the world ending is strange to say the least, and rather than being at all shocked, he seems apathetic or even amused by the revelation, a close-up clearly presenting a prominent grin that he sports for the rest of the exchange. The demographics would be somewhat unnerved by this, as he is obviously not in a ‘normal’ state of mind to be displaying such an odd expression. While this may be being used as a tool to highlight his state, it may also be a genuine reaction which says he is somewhat different to what is considered normal.

After the exchange, the next scene could be described almost as a ‘jump-scare’, the abruptness of the jet engine presumably startling to many. The positioning of the event automatically makes the audience think the worst has taken place—the apocalypse has begun with a violent bang—making it all the more unsettling. The slow shots used here emphasize the panic the situation has caused, time literally seems to slow down when Donnie’s father runs to check on his family, most likely fearing the unthinkable. This works to draw empathy from the demographic, as based on previous shots we are now familiar with all characters represented in the family and naturally have an attachment to their presence.

The sound heard when the house is shaking—the sound of the engine—is identical to the sound we hear during the opening credits, not to mention the finale from inside the plane itself. This is planting the seed that the events don’t follow a conservative order, introducing the idea of time travel as a more realistic concept from early on in the film, becoming more prominent as it further unfolds, which represents the parallel world we believe Donnie is in growing more unstable and less self-contained.

This is also the first time we receive any evidence that Frank is indeed real rather than a figment of Donnie’s imagination, for he seems to have predicted the events and prevented his death, so while he is still seen as mysterious, there is now a certain degree of trust, as he is not necessarily an evil entity despite the unsettling nature of his distorted entrance and ominously threatening bunny suit.

The fade-out may be symbolic of life ending, as his sister’s heavy breathing is the only sound heard over the eternal blackness that seems to ensue after the chaos. Once this stops, the darkness remains for a split second, suggesting the end of life, which is precisely what happens from certain perspectives later in the film.

Overall, this scene applies these effects flawlessly, and combined, they create a tense viewing with gradual creepiness as well as sudden panic. These elements complimented each other to create a scene that one struggles to tear their eyes from, and one that is difficult to shake off.

Nicole Farrell
Nicole Farrell
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Nicole Farrell

Just a university student looking for a way to make money while enjoying my hobby ~

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