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.

May 10th 2014 | 21:22:43

In response to Damocles' question about the jet engines not being the same engine I may have a way of looking at it that may at least spark some more interesting ways of looking for an answer. My theory is that a shift in perception with regards to time needs to happen. The movie spans around 28 days. The common view is to see the space-time rip on day one as being completely separate from the space-time rip on day 28 (as in 28 days later) but my question is what if they correspond to the exact same point in space-time - so that both dimensions co-exist and collide for the split second it takes for the engine to be passed back and forth between them but also so that day 28 overlaps and actually COEXISTS with day 1? You will see then that that a loop in the space-time fabric occurs - linking and melding the end of the 28 day cycle to the beginning so that they actually become one fixed point. Thus the first engine is actually the one from the PU - but 28 days in the future. Thus if the engine number had not been burnt off in the crash they would have found that that engine actually already exists on a perfectly intact plane - hence the duplicate! The ultimate role of the Living Receiver is to restore equilibrium - the existence of two of the same artifact within the same universe is what causes the rip to begin with. So the question is this - if equilibrium is ultimately what's important, should it matter which copy of the engine he sends back? In other words what I'm asking is - which is the copy, the engine from the PU or the one in the TU? They're essentially the same object! So when the rip first occurs a tangent universe is not just created but is actually created at a certain time in the PAST! This point in time in the past is pre-determined according to the time required for the receiver to accomplish his task and send one of the copies of the artifact back to the original PU (either copy will suffice). So the new copy that caused the anomaly is sitting in some secret laboratory under the NSA or whatever but the other copy is sitting on the exact plane that flies by the exact place in space-time at the end of the 28 day cycle that caused the rip to begin with. Hence the engines are not the same and yet.. they are! :) I don't know if I'm expressing myself very clearly here but I hope it sort of makes sense. Any opinions or areas where I may be waaaay off? I last watched this movie years ago as a kid and it was a real blast watching it again this evening and reading all the comments!

May 9th 2014 | 11:58:33

I may be wrong but I'm pretty sure that Donnie doesn't send the right jet engine back. This is because the Living Receiver's role within the TU is return the Artifact to the PU but the jet engine he sends back he rips of the plane his mum and sister are on, and this jet engine is not the one that falls through the rip in time, as stated in this sites official explanation, and it happens 28 days earlier than this flight took place. So technically he hasn't sent the Artifact back at all, he sends a random jet engine back which isn't the duplicate object that threatens to destroy the PU upon collapse of the TU anyway. thoughts anyone?

May 8th 2014 | 10:10:46

Do days in the primary universe actually flick by in the 28 days Donnie experienced in the Tangent Universe or was he sitting in his bed for a long period of time the same night and just imagined the 28 days in his head?

May 3rd 2014 | 19:05:32

When Monnitoff and Pomeroy mention Donnie, I can't remember which teacher it is but they just finished grading one of Donnie's papers. It shows a quick glimpse of the graded paper. I for a while wondered the significance of it too but then I cought that little glimpse.

April 13th 2014 | 12:25:10

Mixed up my notation. Should have wrote:

If you can understand the geometry, then the solution is this: The first jet engine (the one that lands in the TU at time t' = 1) fell from the PU at t = 0 (as TU would measure if able to look at both universes simultaneously) The 2nd Jet Engine (the one that lands in the PU at t = 1) feel from the TU at t' = 0 (as PU would measure if able to look at both universes simultaneously).

The moment the engine falls in one universe is the moment it lands in the other. It is inversely symmetrical, and each event is separated by 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds as measured by the OTHER universe. Like if the time lines were parallel but shifted by that amount from each other, and then at the finish point of one draw a line to the beginning point of the other.

April 13th 2014 | 12:15:30

Regarding the Jet Engine: how it could be the "same" one, but from a different time.

Assuming we have a TU, then the PU and TU must be skew in spacetime; the PU and TU are rays in which the beginning of the TU is at a point on the PU. Since they AREN'T the same universe, they CANNOT be in the identical spacetime line.

For the PU we'll use t = 0 for the fall of the Jet Engine and t = 1 for the landing of the Jet Engine. For the TU we'll use t' = 0 for the fall of the Jet Engine and t' = 1 for the landing of the Jet Engine.

If you can understand the geometry, then the solution is this: The first jet engine (the one that lands in the TU at time t' = 0) fell from the PU at t = 1. The 2nd Jet Engine (the one that lands in the PU at t = 0) feel from the TU at t' = 1.

So what you have is a symmetric CRISS-CROSS of artifacts, each falling from each universe's respective future into the other's past.

Donnie Darko switches them back at the precise moments in question for each universe, causing the TU to safely collapse.

So basically, what we have is that the jet engine DID come from the future, but it came from the OTHER future (and vice versa for each universe).

April 13th 2014 | 3:36:58

yeah, but the guy in the red jumpsuit was seen first by the GF and that is why she didn't want to kiss him.

April 12th 2014 | 4:47:46

If the jet engine was a result from a glitch, does that mean that there can be TU's that don't have an artifact if the glitch doesn't occur? And if so, would there be any difference between the TU and the PU?

April 4th 2014 | 6:04:13

grandma death had to have been a living receiver because she new about the "wormholes that showed where everyone was going information only the living receiver had

kay em
April 4th 2014 | 3:41:12

To answer a previous question, I believe the man in the red jumpsuit is Gretchen's step dad - he was stalking her and Donnie in the woods and then he shows up again the night Gretchen's mom disappears.

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Eddie Darko - Manipulated Living
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