Donnie Darko is an almost confusing film about time travel, schizophrenia and the manipulation of one’s fate. The film focuses on a teenage schoolboy named Donnie Darko. Donnie is not mentally healthy but he is very intelligent and has extremely high Iowa test scores. He also has a tendency to hallucinate and do destructive things when sleepwalking, such as flooding his school and burning down a house, due to this he is on strong medication and sees a therapist on a regular basis. After a near death experience, Donnie starts seeing an imaginary friend known as Frank. Frank is a seven foot tall, demonic looking rabbit, who tells him about how the world is going to end and of the possibilities of time travel. Frank saved Donnie from this near death experience by telling Donnie to follow him outside and revealed to him that the world was going to end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds.
After Donnie was told about the end of the world a plane engine crashed through his house, destroying his bedroom. Luckily Donnie was outside and survived. Donnie also finds love in a new girl to his school named Gretchen Ross. This girl also has a dark past and is somewhat mentally unhealthy as well due to her mother being stabbed four times by her step father. As time goes on Donnie sees more of Frank and more hallucinations, which leads him to think that time travel is possible along with the power to manipulate fate. To prevent all of the negative events Donnie sees himself causing in the future, he goes back in time to stay in his room and die as the plane engine crashes through his home. This prevents a whole butterfly type effect on everyone that surrounds him and the end of the world Frank warns him about.
Throughout the movie Donnie is filled with unhappy thoughts and his head is consumed by troubled feelings caused by the prescription pills he takes, although these pills seem to be the only thing that Donnie has to give him a consistent behavior and focus in life. They also open his mind to reality beyond what he normally comprehends. Donnie is tortured by his genius, his fear of death, and struggles with isolating himself brought on by feelings of being rejected for thinking differently or outside the box. Through his genius and reaction to the pills, Donnie saw his destiny and was scared of dying alone so he created Frank to give him direction.
With his second chance in life, Donnie went around making sense of peoples lives and destroying things that could make people unhappy such as his corrupt school. Donnie loves people and wants to help them but he fears what everything means in the big picture, and this is why he needs Frank for direction. He then realizes that his choice to live brought more pain, death, and doom than if he had died in the first place. This is why he chose death, he just needed to understand this so he could be at peace. He then feels happy about himself which is why he dies with a smile on his face.
Donnie Darko’s behavior is very abnormal, he is not like anybody else in his environment. This can mostly be attributed to being a paranoid schizophrenic. Paranoid schizophrenia is one of the most damaging of all mental disorders. It causes it’s victims to lose touch with reality as Donnie does with his ideas of time travel. They often begin to hear, see, or feel things that aren’t really there, or hallucinations which Donnie often experiences. They also become convinced of things that simply are not true which are delusions. In the paranoid form of this disorder, they develop delusions of persecution or personal greatness. The first signs of paranoid schizophrenia usually surface between the ages of 15 and 34. There is no cure, but the disorder can be controlled with medications such as Donnie is forced to take.
Since Donnie is a paranoid schizophrenic no prior events would have caused his behavior because schizophrenia is thought to be a chemical imbalance in the brain and is not in any way caused by stress, which disregards any idea of post traumatic events causing his behavior, although stress can make the symptoms worse. One example of this is how the near death experience made his symptoms worse.
His symptoms included, confusion, inability to make decisions, hallucinations, changes in sleeping habits, energy level, delusions, nervousness, strange statements or behavior, withdrawal from friends, or school, anger, indifference to the opinions of others, a tendency to argue, a conviction that you are better than others, or that people are out to get you. Without medication and therapy, most paranoid schizophrenics are unable to function in the real world. If they fall victim to severe hallucinations and delusions, as Donnie does, they can be a danger to themselves and those around them. This is greatly illustrated by Donnie being forced to take his medicines, and causing harm to others such as when he shoots the kid who hit his girlfriend and flooding the school. It is rather evident that Donnie Darko suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.