Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko ★★★★★

Donnie's aggressive behavior, his increased detachment from reality, seems to stem from his inability to cope with the forces in the world that he perceives to be threatening.

Darko goes back to the earliest roots of my cinematic obsession, its title carefully inscribed over and over on notebook paper...part of a list of 10 films from each decade that seemed to me important, formative morning viewings just before my mid-day drive to college, sprawled out on the floor looking up at my dad's desktop computer, blasting sound through its brittle, tiny external speakers while i walked back and forth to do laundry, the washroom's low rhythmic cycle filled the silence of a vacant house...this is how i chose to spend my first precious tastes of time to myself

what seems now a vital part of my identity was admittedly a pursuit undertaken out of insecurity and isolation; my parents didn't let me watch anything over PG, so by the time high school rolled around i was completely out of my depth when popular movies were referenced in conversation, often leading to my ridicule for not having seen them...a similar thing happened with music in middle school, sparking my first consciousness of the names of songs and artists, now a cataloging of movies and their years of release...fruitless efforts to compensate for my self-perceived shortcomings grew into Real Interests but honestly, i also really fucking liked having that value, however shallow, to others; by 9th grade my math teacher nicknamed me "iPod" because i could name anything he played in class, by college i was "the film guy" and people actually wanted to hear my takes, asked me what was good and what wasn't (at least until i showed a group of friends my recently discovered favorite, Mulholland Drive, but that's for another day!!)

funny now that out of all that initial canon, Darko and Spring Breakers are the only ones that survived over a decade of turbulence and growth...the latter rejected outright even as it planted a long gestating seed that would blossom into a eureka moment years later, while the former was immediate, life-changing art that made all the sense in the world: here was a movie about a high school boy with dark hair and a pretty girlfriend that liked him because he was weird (hello), a boy that didn't quite fit into any setting, that clashed with his parents despite their clear, genuine love for him...a boy that was choked out in unseen spaces and full of rage he could never quite express

at the time, i overcompensated for alienation from my faith with performative actuality, i was lost and increasingly alienated, but i sketched more and more aimlessly in pursuit of something real, my limited attempts at intimidation spiraling into free abstraction...losing myself in Old Worlds to escape reality, Worlds that were still palpable and vivid, my firmest continuity of self, stretching back as far as i could remember...Worlds that got darker with each passing year, that i would soon abandon for no reason other than feeling like i had to, that i was holding off growing last sketches died alongside my faith that freshman year of "real" college, far away from the only town i'd ever lived, in the hazy cloud of my first breakup over a fucking cell phone, ten sketches i knocked out in quick succession and then boom! no more drawings, as if the medium had served its purpose and could be discarded without a second thought, in retrospect a great tragedy i only just realized occured

I promise that one day, everything's gonna be better for you.

watching Darko now, i rediscover a bit of those Old Worlds, feel a bit of what seems like a True Faith...realize just now naïve it was back then to think i had some timer on finding myself; i'm still growing and learning and i've made peace with that, i've come so far, and the things i thought were important then are laughably small now, experiences recontextualized by age and reflection and dare i say wisdom...everything is more meaningful, richer, fuller...i do not envy my teenage self nor wish to change a thing about him, i have no misplaced nostalgia, no romanticized idea of what it was like...and Darko helpfully reminds me of that, of how fucking alone it felt and that things do get better, that the nightmares go away and with hard work and love it is possible to make sense of it all

Burn it to the ground.

a reminder that context is everything, that what i watched in 2012 is so very different from 2022...that the film now evokes purgatorial cycles of the End of History in its design, its despondent loop a microcosm confined by systems beyond the grasp of even the most gifted teenager...fixations on capital and its priests, their processes of alienation and warping of truth into simplified abstractions...the response to neoliberalism with new age bullshit and a clinging to faith in a higher power, fixation on the apocalypse that substitutes a desire for The Inevitable Change...that righteous anger and a lack of understanding leads to a misplaced violence but that violence is a product of the systems that cultivate it

I don't think you have a clue what it's like to communicate with these kids. And we are losing them to apathy, to this prescribed nonsense. They are slipping away.

but more than anything, this hits different as a teacher...seeing these phenomena and being unable to explain them to these kids even as i'm ostensibly preparing them for the world to come, nudging them toward conclusions they already seem to grasp and hoping that fire doesn't burn out with conditioning, that maybe i can plant some seed with them that sticks...reach beyond my purported subject matter and make them feel heard and understood, that someone really cares and believes in them...and ya know, going to teacher conferences where we have to be briefed on intricate new laws that exist for no other reason than to obscure real history and uphold white supremacy, to suppress and obfuscate truth from the inheritors of whatever comes next

If the sky were to suddenly open up, there would be no law, there would be no rule...there would only be you and your memories -- the choices you've made, and the people you've touched.

Kelly's use of the apocalypse, which i once thought was purely a reflection of the religious right's fixations, now reads more analogous to Moore's repurposing of the term in his magnum opus, Promethea: not a literal end of the world but an end of this world, an abstract but provocative metaphor for the end of the End of History...reconfiguring not just the mechations of a long dead system, but reconceptualizing life itself, our priorities, our means of organization, and most importantly, our idea of what's possible...a reliance on the imagination of a child to guide our way forward, to open the sky and look into it with conviction, and faith

Block or Report

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