Donnie Darko
Franks Eye

Unanswered Questions

Even though the main explanation is consistent and ties the whole movie together there are still a few parts of the movie that are not explained and have to rely on theory. Here are some of those questions with possible explanations and some common mistakes people make.

What Creates The Tangent Universe

Time PortalWhy exactly does a Tangent Universe (TU) occur? Are they a natural phenomenon or are they artificially created. There is one theory that scientists in the future build a machine that somehow causes a rip in time back in the past. Another theory is it could have been caused by Alien involvement.

Quite a common thought is Frank saving Donnie in the beginning is the cause of the TU. Donnie was meant to die and by surviving he altered things which caused the corruption. This is not true though, we are already within the TU when Frank wakes Donnie up. Frank's special powers only work within the TU so he would only be able to wake Donnie after the TU had started.

The same goes for the Artifact not being the cause of the corruption. The jet engine appears several minutes after the TU had started. The Philosophy of Time Travel states that the Artifact is the first sign of evidence that a TU has occurred.

The First Jet Engine

The ArtifactOne major question is where does the jet engine in the beginning of the movie come from originally? If it came from the future where exactly and what day did it come from?

A common answer to this question is it's the same engine Donnie sends through the portal from the plane his mother and sister were on. The engine travels through time and lands on Donnie's house. It's exactly the same event as the end of the film only the first time round Donnie survives.

This is extremely unlikely though as the portals are just a gateway between the two Universes. The first engine lands in the Tangent Universe (TU) so if it came through a portal it would have to come from the Primary Universe (PU). The engine Donnie rips of the plane at the end is from the TU and travels through a portal into the PU so there is no way it can be the same event repeating.

If it did come from a future point in the PU once the corruption is fixed by Donnie that future event won't happen now so we will never find out exactly how it occurred.

Another theory is the Tangent Universe is a copy of the Primary Universe but as it's being formed there is a glitch or copying error. This error produces a duplicate engine that is then dumped into Donnie's bedroom. This anomaly makes the TU even more unstable and it must be sent into the PU.

Roberta Sparrow: The Philosophy Of Time Travel

Roberta Sparrow (Grandma Death)Roberta Sparrow writes the book "The Philosophy Of Time Travel" which helps guide Donnie but how exactly did she know all this information? There are a few plausible explanations for this. It seems like she had a similar experience herself so either she was a Living Receiver or one of the Manipulated Dead in a previous Tangent Universe.

Both options would in theory give her all the information required. If she was a Living Receiver she would obviously have known what to do and the Manipulated Dead have a large understanding of what is happening within a Tangent Universe. It's possible she may have somehow retained some of the information from her experience once the Primary Universe started up again.

Does Donnie Have To Die

Donnie DarkoThis subject is one of the most debated parts of the movie. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking Donnie waking up and cheating death in the beginning is what caused the Tangent Universe (TU) to occur. The assumption is then once the Primary Universe is restored Donnie stays in bed otherwise he risks causing another TU to start and the whole cycle will repeat. This theory is not correct though, Donnie and Frank have nothing to do with the creation of the TU.

We hear about other Living Receivers in The Philosophy of Time Travel who were killed by the Artifact they returned. If we include Donnie then it seems the Living Receiver always dies once the Primary Universe is restored. The question is what would happen if Donnie got out of bed again and survived? The moment we see Donnie laughing in bed at the end the Primary Universe is already restored. If Donnie got out of bed and dodged the second engine after that then in theory nothing would change as the corruption is already fixed.

Another important point is whether Donnie chooses to die. The Donnie we see in bed at the end is not the same Donnie from the last 28 days. How much knowledge he has of what happened in the TU is very questionable and it’s quite unlikely he knows he is about to die.

The question of destiny plays quite a big part here, Donnie was meant to die but Frank saved him. It’s possible he was chosen as the Living Receiver because his life is now expendable; he is going to die anyway. Once back in the real world it's Donnie's destiny to die.

April 29th 2012 | 22:03:28

My question is, what is the point of the sheritta character? She doesn't seem to have anything to do with the ensurance trap, or am I just missing something?

April 21st 2012 | 23:48:42

at last in the movie where does he die in PU or TU.
if he died in PU than again it has two engines.
of if he died in TU still there are two engines.

April 7th 2012 | 3:36:00

okay that makes sense :) thanks... but whats the purpose of the letter? like what does he achieve by writing it?

April 6th 2012 | 2:09:43

I think she checks her mail everyday because she knows that Donnie is going to write to her, so he's waiting for her letter.

April 3rd 2012 | 4:36:50

The only remaining question I have is why does Ms.Sparrow check her mail everyday? Please answer! its killing me!

March 30th 2012 | 5:16:52

The TU begins BEFORE the jet engine has fallen, right? The fallen engine come into existence in the TU to show that it is a TU (artefact), not the PU. It's existence causes a paradox, as the engine already exists in the TU, on the plane it eventually comes off. This makes the already unstable TU even more unstable. Donnie then sends the engine from the plane, within the same time-stream of the TU back to when it lands on his house, then becoming the Artefact, which removes said paradox, then creating a more stable TU that won't rip all existence apart when it's completed it's 28 days. So he's not sending the engine to the PU because the engine only falls on his house in the TU. Therefore he may be laughing at the end because he knows that his death won't happen in the PU, because he dies in the TU where the engine falls on his house. The TU then completes it's 28 days as though he had died from the start and now the TU won't rip all existence apart.
That's just how my mind has processed it, feedback on any holes in my theory would be much appreciated.

February 1st 2012 | 4:52:52

If you notice on the move theater marquee when Donnie and Gretchen go to see Evil Dead, the movie The Last Temptation of Christ is also playing. I think that's a HUGE hint or possible explanation for why Donnie had to die (if you choose to see it that way). In Last Temptation (I believe, for I haven't seen that movie in years) Christ somehow is saved from dying on the cross (or chooses to be saved) and then lives a somewhat normal life. But he comes to realize that he must die on the cross to save the world. After he finally accepts that he somehow intentionally time travels back to the cross to die so he can save the world. When he appears on the cross he laughs because he is happy that he gets to save the world and was successful in getting back to the cross so he can do that. Perhaps that movie title was on the movie theater marquee as a hint that Donnie had to die as a Christ-like sacrifice to save the world. This explanation seems to conflict with the explanation offered on this website (that he didn't have to die), so I don't know if Donnie really had to die or not. But again, the fact that the Last Temptation of Christ was playing is suggestive.

January 4th 2012 | 3:49:49


More depressingly, but probably most likely though based on the letter his widow sent accompanying the book, was that he was run off the road by the CIA when they couldn't get the book from him.

January 4th 2012 | 3:21:17


I think the implication is that Dr. Ken later became a Living Reciever himself - another unexplained accident involving large metal object.

January 3rd 2012 | 3:06:47

"Dr. Kenneth Monnitoff dies in a hit and run car accident on August 12, 1999. He was driving his Volvo station wagon down Old Gun Road when he was side-swiped and driven off the road by an oncoming driver, colliding with a tree."

Why is this important? I understand the importance of knowing that cunnigham died, and can even see the need to finish sparrow off, but what is the importance of this. Does it tie in with the film somehow, the message must have been put onto the website for some reason, to tie up a loose end of some sort perhaps. I hope someone can answer me because it's doing my head in lol

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Professor Monnitoff - Manipulated Living
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