“It was as if the plan had been with him all his life…” – Karen Pomeroy, Donnie Darko
Spoilers Ahead: for the first part of the Donnie Darko review, click here.
By the end of this spectacularly crafted film, the young Donnie Darko understands what his death will avert, and it is clear that he (and everyone else) is part of a grand design. Donnie would like to know that he’s not alone in the universe, but also realizes he can search and search but never find what we typically consider to be “proof”. This is the frustrated position of the agnostic, who concludes he can never know and thus gives up the debate. Unlike other religions, Christianity teaches that God can be known because He initiates with us, intersecting our lives. Without this, we truly would never find him; He reveals Himself to us, calls us, and saves us according to His pleasure.
Embodied by the frightening, angelic Frank, the god in Kelly’s film allows Donnie to experience the transcendent and get a glimpse “behind the curtain”. Not only does he realize the design and masterful intricacies of the universe – that a Sovereign Overseer orchestrates all events throughout time to lead to His desired conclusions – but also that, in this revelation, Donnie has purpose and worth, even in death. The Fibinachi Spiral represents design in nature; it implies that the fabric of our reality has a design, (and, logically, a designer). Frank allows Donnie to see in part as God sees in full – “in God’s channel” – experiencing foreknowledge and seeing predestined actions moving toward foretold events.
Donnie seems comforted, perhaps elated, that he will not die alone. God has been revealed. Though I might not believe the true God of our universe reveals himself by this particular method, the film still makes an excellent case for God’s sovereignty, predestination, and the comfort that can be derived from it.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
Foreknowledge refers to God’s intimate knowledge of events and His people (Acts 2:23, Romans 11:2, 1 Peter 1:2, 1:20). Predestination literally means “to mark out beforehand” (Acts 4:28, 1 Corinthians 2:7, Ephesians 1:5,11). There is much critique of these ideas, even by Christians who would deny these realities in spite of undeniable scripture references. The obligatory criticism is not new to our day and age; it was around in the first century and anticipated by Paul in the book of Romans:
“One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?’ But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘why did you make me like this?’… What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath- prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory…?” – Romans 9
God speaks to Christians about his choice to adopt people into His kingdom before they existed:
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…” – Ephesians 1
Christians curl up in bed and sleep the contented sleep of Donnie Darko, knowing that whatever awaits us in this life is according to a good God’s will. While the world is not perfect, and we are responsible to play our part in the beautiful screenplay, things will work out according to His holy purpose… into which we’re lovingly sculpted, crafted, and allowed a participatory portion in His grand story. In the film’s commendary, director Richard Kelly described his inclination to tell this story as a strange, obsessive fascination with the subject of predestination, and I believe Kelly was inclined to do a masterful job. I’d love to thank him, and engage him in discussion to see where he’s at with these ideas in his own life.
However, I thank God even more… that He is the ultimate Storyteller, and my part in the story is in the hands of an infinitely greater Master.