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Donnie Darko

Cabaret Cinema: Time

Friday, April 27, 2018
9:30 PM–11:30 PM

2001, Richard Kelly, USA, 113 min.

Introduced by neuroscientist Aniruddha Das

Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) comes from a semi-functional, upper-middle class family, gifted with a sharp intellect and vivid imagination—but he’s also a bit weird. Donnie’s off his medication, and when his bedroom is obliterated by a falling airline engine, he becomes increasingly delusional and convinced the world will end in 28 days. Inspired by strange visions, he seeks out what he can learn about time travel—from textbooks both real (Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time) and fictional (The Philosophy of Time Travel, written by Roberta Sparrow, played in the film by Patience Cleveland). Aided by an imaginary friend, he embarks on an increasingly crazed series of actions, which horrify his teachers, scare his parents, and amaze his friends.

“Writer-director Richard Kelly’s otherworldly-wise Donnie may have found the science behind the apparently supernatural—in this case time travel—which would explain why everyone thinks he’s crazy. His sessions with his therapist—and with a high school teacher who’s not supposed to discuss theoretical physics with students—are, like the rest of this creepy, insightful coming-of-age story, beautifully kaleidoscopic in tone. Kelly is a supple and courageous storyteller, boldly free-associating as he mixes parody and satire with earnest psychodrama and coming up with plot points no one could anticipate.”

—Lisa Alspector, Chicago Reader


About Cabaret Cinema: Time

Curated by Rubin Museum fellow and neuroscientist David Eagleman, Cabaret Cinema delves into the mysteries of time. Aside from their listed duration, movies often carry us through periods far beyond the minutes that pass as we sit in a theater. The narrative compulsion of “what happens next” can suspend time, be warped through sudden flashbacks, and inspire us to imagine a future beyond the two-dimensional celluloid. What does the world of cinema reveal about our experience of time?


Brainwave is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

About the Introducer

Born in Calcutta, India, Aniruddha Das has a natural connection to the Himalayas and the Rubin Museum. His happiest childhood memories are of the Himalayas, where his family spent every summer and winter. Like every child he was interested in perception, wondering how we make sense of what we see. He considers himself very fortunate in getting the chance to make a living asking that question. Aniruddha teaches and heads a lab at the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute, focusing on understanding visual perception—in particular how the visual brain prepares for anticipated tasks.


Tickets: $10.00

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