Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko (2001), has been a source of inspiration for me for years. I recently wrote another piece for Lit Reactor called “Building a Mystery,” in which I speculate about what might constitute a taxonomy for storytelling, something akin to the usual concerns about character, plot, and structure, but different. Donnie Darko is one of the movies I analyze in the piece. Here’s an excerpt:
In a 2005 interview with Daniel Robert Epstein (R.I.P.), Pi director Darren Aronofsky likened writing to making a tapestry: “I’ll take different threads from different ideas and weave a carpet of cool ideas together.” In the same interview, he described the way those ideas hang together in his films, saying, “every story has its own film grammar, so you have to sort of figure out what the story is about and then figure out what each scene is about and then that tells you where to put the camera.”
Now, when watching a movie or reading a book, I often find myself trying to break down its constituent parts. Also, when writing or creating, I sometimes try to establish a loose taxonomy of the elements involved in the project, a list of the salient aspects of the story. These are orthogonal to the usual concerns about structure (e.g., the three acts, beat map, midpoint, climax, etc.), but they’re as important. Necessary but not sufficient.