Whether you love the theatrical or director’s cut, Donnie Darko is an immersive film that, over the years, has grown in cinematic stature. The picture put filmmaker Richard Kelly on the map, and he currently supervised the 4K restoration of both of his cuts in celebration of the film’s 15th’ anniversary.
“It was a long and painstaking process,” said Kelly who collaborated with UK-based Arrow Films on the restoration project. “But I felt it was a blessing to get to do it because a lot of films kind of get thrown into oblivion and they decay. Digital media decays – celluloid is a very resilient substance and this was shot on film and the original negative was in great shape. I’m in a big believer in digital projection and presentation. Digital can do wonders in preserving the quality and grain of celluloid and I think there can be a marriage between the two.”
Though Donnie Darko was a critically acclaimed film that was also loved by cinephiles, the new release of the project will hopefully generate an even bigger fanbase for the film. It may also lead movie enthusiasts to take a deeper dive into the filmmaker’s criminally underrated features Southland Tales and The Box.
“I’m grateful that they are wanting to put it back in theaters,” said Kelly, who also added that he’ll be directing another feature this year. “For a long time Donnie has been in the cult category and I’m happy to wear that badge and I’m honored that anyone ascribes the word “cult” to my work but I’m wanting very much to be in the mainstream . . . that’s where every artist wants to be – in the mainstream is where you can raise the money to realize these (projects).”
A coming of age drama that’s mixed together with refreshingly abstract time travel elements is an ambitious filmmaking feat no matter what the year, and Kelly reflects on the lasting appeal of Donnie Darko.
“I think aesthetics trump everything in cinema,” said Kelly, who adds that all three of his movies have some form of connection in his expanded universe. “It begins with aesthetics. That’s the gateway to to the story – it’s how it’s presented and that includes the performances, the cinematography and the music. The design elements. And if those are well rendered then you get into the story and the narrative and the screenplay. The aesthetics of Donnie Darko worked and it allowed people a clear gateway into the story.”
Donnie Darko opens in select theaters today. For a list of theaters, click here.