I’M BEGINNING TO QUESTION YOUR COMMITMENT TO SPARKLE MOTION
If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time longer than a week (or maybe even just a week), it’d come as no surprise that I’m a very big fan of the movie Donnie Darko. I’ve seen the movie about 30 times and even bought a DVD player largely so I could watch the movie at home with commentary and deleted scenes because I wanted to understand the movie better. Just like a boy who doesn’t really like to talk – you become obsessed. What are they hiding? What can you unlock? What about the bigger picture of this are you missing? It’s like Jordan Catalano syndrome, only I feel like Donnie Darko is deeper that my high school crush. And yes, you’ve just entered another Donnie Darko related post. A very long one at that.
One of the things that really drew me the most into Monde Donnie Darko was the accompanying music: Echo and the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon,” Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels,” Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,”Duran Duran’s “Notorious,” The Church’s “Under the Milky Way,” and Gary Jules’ version of the Tears for Fears song “Mad World,” to name a few.
For the longest time I just thought that these songs were merely put in there to put a time context to the movie and because they were really fucking cool songs. In retrospect, I realize that these songs were actually plot devices serving as clues to what’s going on in the movie and to maybe help the viewer get a better sense of what everything' means. Until Scott sent me a link to a Salon article about the movie I still hadn’t figured things out. So before reading on, I suggest you go to that article.
I warn you, I will be super insane about this, so you might not follow because I’m not sure my thoughts are totally flushed out to the point of making sense.
[EDIT: I saw the directors cut last night (I unfortunately missed the first 4 minutes, which meant that I missed one of my favorite scenes, which also means I missed the fact that they changed the song they used in the opening scene. It was no longer "The Killing Moon" by Echo and the Bunnymen. Now it's INXS' "Never Tear Us Apart" and apparently the song worked really nicely. I guess I'll go see it again tomorrow so I can see this for myself. Anyway, there are some added comments to this post that I thought about since last night -- and since seeing the directors cut, so i'm putting those notes in red, just like this.]
Echo and the Bunnymen – “The Killing Moon”
The movie, I found, nearly appears to be written almost as if the screenwriter had been given an assignment to create a movie based on a song, and that song is “The Killing Moon” by Echo and the Bunnymen. Must I point out the fact that Donnie Darko spends the whole movie following around and listening to the advice of a dude in a bunny costume? (BTW – apparently NIN’s “Hurt” inspired the movie Fight Club.)
“Under blue moon I saw you” begins the song. The blue moon represents a rare moment, much like the rare moment when something happens in the universe that causes there to be two universes. A freaky occurrence in space, the world or universe will collapse and destroy itself. Nature killing itself.
“Up in your arms too late to beg you or cancel it though I know it must be the killing time, unwillingly mine” - Donnie, for the first time (a rare moment a la a blue moon), experiences love but also needs to face the fact that he must destroy and kill everything to save everything. It’s something he doesn’t want to do but needs too, nearly against his will.
”Fate, up against your will. Through the thick and thin, he will wait until you give yourself to him.” -- OK, the first part of this line can be interpreted as how Donnie must face his fate as the inevitable and unlikely superhero – a fate nearly all super heroes feel sort of unhappy with. The second part of that line can be used with two reasons: 1. Donnie’s girlfriend Gretchen most likely gives her virginity to Donnie (or at least takes his) and he needs to have that in his life to feel complete and then feel alright and not alone about destroying the parallel universe so he can save the real one, and 2. Donnie is giving himself to God by following through with what fate had left him with.
”In starlit nights I saw you. So cruelly you kissed me. Your lips a magic world, your sky all hung with jewels. The killing moon, will come too soon.” -- What kisses Donnie cruelly under starlit night is the kiss of death for his love, Gretchen. The lips forcing him into a magic, parallel world. The hung part is obviously referencing his ginormous cock.
”La la la la la...” -- the nonchalantness Donnie eventually feels about the whole thing when he’s sat in his bed laughing. OK, I’m stretching with that one.
[EDIT: This song doesn't open the film anymore. Instead it's what you hear just after Donnie and Gretchen have sex for the first time. It works pretty well in that scene as well since it's got the whole concept of there being a killing moon and Donnie kills Frank shortly after while they're in the twilight. It also pushes the "fate up against your will" concept of how Donnie is just doing what fate has called for him to do -- which is DESTROY THE TANGENT UNIVERSE]
Joy Division – “Love Will Tear Us Apart”
OK, whatever Donnie is feeling in this movie can be summed up best by this song. His love for Gretchen, his short, yet undying love for her, causes him to destroy everything. It tears them apart because she follows him to the cellar door and gets killed by Frank. It tears them apart because when Donnie is given a second chance to live and repeat everything that went wrong for a chance to be in love with Gretchen again – or maybe not even repeat for definite but face the chance of repeating the fate that leads to Gretchen’s death, he chooses to off himself so she might live. At least he got to live a life for a short time when he was in love and knew that someone loved him back. He’d rather die than not feel that again. His love for her, tears them apart. Unlike “The Killing Moon,” it’s about “Love Will Tear Us Apart”’s feeling, rather than the lyrics.
Duran Duran – “Notorious”
Not my favorite Duran Duran song, but I’m assuming the reason it was used (if the director/music supervisior was as meticulous about the song selection as I’m making them out to be) was because of this line:
”No.. no.. notorious! I.. can't read about it, burns the skin from your eyes, I'll do fine without it, here's one you don't compromise. Lies come hard to disguise, let me to fight it out, not wild about it. Lay your seedy judgements, who says they're part of our lives?” -- Patrick Swayze’s character , Jim Cunningham, comes to Donnie’s town as a sort of holier than thou self help master whom Donnie calls out for being a fraud and the anti-Christ. Turns out Donnie was right. Cunningham was busy with a child pornography ring when he wasn’t busy trying to convince everyone that he was the second coming. This is discovered when Donnie burns down his house and the fire department finds a secret room filled with the sicko porno tapes. Pretty seedy for such a judgmental person. He was no longer able to disguise his lies, despite Kitty “God is Awesome” Farmer’s attempt to prove his innocence. It’s no mistake that this was played during Sparkle Motion’s performance, and when Donnie was burning down Jim Cunningham’s house. And it was probably also no mistake that Jim’s last name was Cunningham seeing as the word “cunning” means “Marked by or given to artful subtlety and deceptiveness.”
Tears for Fears – “Head Over Heels”
This song is the first song post-galaxy change. “Something happens and I’m head over heels” – that something is, let’s see, when the universe splits into two and Donnie finds himself on bizarroverse. Eventually it’s an action that Donnie commits later on in the movie that causes him to get through the film: He kills Frank. Frank is killed during the 28 day bizarro period and therefore able to exist and walk around as he wishes (as a sort of ghost), advising Donnie on what to do. If Donnie never shot and killed Frank towards the end of the movie he never would’ve been able to destroy the bizarroverse because Frank served as a helper. Anyway, basically this line is pretty impressively used if you’re as crazy as I am and over analyzing lyrics at 9:30 pm on a Friday night “It's hard to be a man when there's a gun in your hand.”
[EDIT: there's a line at the end of this song that I haven't been able to find on any of the lyrics databases for this song. If I am hearing it correctly, what's being said at the very end of this song is: "One little boy, one little man. Funny how time flies." Donnie is a little boy, turned into a little man almost instantly, and in the directors cut of the movie he makes a reference to time flying. He makes time fly.]
If you’ve gotten this far, color me impressed. It’s pretty much downhill from here.
The Church – “Under the Milky Way”
I don’t know if this movie was the first time I heard this song since it seemed incredibly familiar to me the moment it came on screen. I wish I could remember exactly which part this song came in on since that might make some sort of difference for my purposes. In terms of when it was used in the movie: the song came on just after Donnie and Gretchen had sex for the first and last time (unless he fucked her corpse, you know, for old times). However, the line that works well for this is: “And it's something quite peculiar, something that's shimmering and white. Leads you here despite your destination, under the Milky Way tonight.” You know how Donnie keeps on following those silver orbs? Those are quite peculiar, shimmering, and sort of white. They lead him around despite what he thinks his destination should be – or rather they lead him to what his destination should be. It all happens under the Milky Way – which is out of it’s mind on that particular night.
[EDIT: In the directors cut they had this song playing while Donnie was driving in the car with his father. The song that played post coital changed to "The Killing Moon".]
Tears for Fears/Gary Jules – “Mad World”
Well, this is the last song we hear in the movie. We hear this song when Donnie finally gets everything back in order (after using his telekinesis powers to rip the engine thing off the wing of the airplane his mom and sister were on and cause a sort of time traveling machine that destroyed the parallel universe he was in – I shit you not, that’s what he did) . No more bizarre universe. No more dead girlfriend. No more dead bunnyman. It’s a crazy world, this world he lives in. This world we live in. And if it weren’t for the martyr by the name of Donnie Darko, we’d be dead.
[EDIT: I forgot to mention that the song contains the incredible line "I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad, that the dreams in which I'm dying are the best I ever had." This is one of the most important lines of the song, and I totally forgot to mention it. There are a lot of theories that the entire movie was a prophetic dream of Donnie's, and that all the people in his life had a similar dream. If it was a prophetic dream, and he died in it, and he fell in love, then it'd be easy to say that it was the best he ever had.]
Thank you and good night.