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And I’m happy to say that, after all that, I more or less pretty much understand what the hell happens in “Donnie Darko.” So if you haven’t seen “Darko” and don’t want the film spoiled, don’t read any further.

(The publishers of Salon have asked me to note that instead of reading you might consider blindly flipping through the next six pages and clicking on all the ads.) While I will be including some information from the director’s cut in this explanation, very little of this is true spoiler material, as almost all the additions to the film were previously included among the movie’s DVD extras.

We first meet Donnie Darko (Gyllenhaal) at sunrise; he’s asleep in the middle of a mountain road.

He wakes up and looks out over the valley below, including his hometown, Middlesex, Va.

“Darko,” 26-year-old writer-director Richard Kelly’s first film, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore and Patrick Swayze, came out on October 26, 2001. 11, the film’s distributor was understandably uncertain how to sell a film whose bizarre events are set in motion by a jet engine falling from the sky.

While its critical reception included a number of rave reviews, the film died on the vine, taking in only half a million dollars in its initial release in a handful of cities.

I have no idea.” And Kelly himself mentions in the DVD commentary that “this film kinda does need Cliffs Notes.” And so Cliffs Notes it shall have.

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