evelyn: nonnetta @ deviantART ([a2a1])
[personal profile] evelyn
I'm supposed to be writing Gene/Alex for [livejournal.com profile] ship_manifesto and instead I'm watching Jacob's Ladder. If you don't know it, it's a 1990 movie set in 1975 and stars Tim Robbins as a Vietnam vet who worries he's been the victim of secret Army experiments on mind altering drugs when he starts seeing demonic creatures. There are a lot of similarities with a2a, so many that I wanted to write it into the essay but I think it's a bit inappropriate for that particular comm which is supposed to be all about the ship so I've written up a few thoughts here instead.

Jacob Singer is a soldier in Da Nang. His unit is under attack and he is bayonetted. We then see him wake up on a subway train as if from a dream. This is his life after Vietnam. His youngest son was killed in a car accident while he was away. He is separated from his wife, working as a postman despite his phd (he wanted a job where he didn't have to think) and living with a co-worker named Jezzy (short for Jezabel). He has a bad back and his best friend seems to be Louis, his chiropractor. He fondly calls Louis an angel.
Jacob sees demonic creatures all around him. A mysterious man shouts out a warning to him to run just as a car tries to hit him. Demons look out the car windows at him as he throws himself to the side.
Later, at a party with Jezzy, his hallucinations overcome him and he collapses. Back home his temperature is getting so high that Jezzy enlists the neighbours' help to get him into an ice bath.

At this point we suddenly see Jacob back in his old home with his wife and sons, even the youngest who we know has died. Jacob isn't acting weirdly, he seems to belong in this time. He tells his wife he had a strange dream that he was living with another woman. Then, later as he tucks his son into bed, he snaps back to the ice bath and his life with Jezzy.

Jacob is in contact with other members of his unit and they report similar symptoms and fears that they are going insane. He becomes certain that they have been the victims of secret army experiments but his attempts to pursue this see him badly injured and stuck in a creepy hospital until he is rescued by his friend Louis who treats him until he's on his feet again.

Finally he meets the mysterious man who has several times warned him of danger. The man identifies himself as a chemist and ex con who was plucked from Rikers Island by the army to perfect a drug that would increase aggression in the soldiers in Vietnam. He called it 'the ladder' since it was a fast trip to man's baser instincts. Unfortunately when the army slipped the drug into the unit's food supplies it caused the men to turn on each other. When Jacob is told the members of his unit slaughtered each other he finds he can now recall the face of the man who wounded him. It was another American soldier.

Jacob returns to his old home but his wife and children aren't there. He falls asleep and when he wakes it is daylight and his youngest son is sitting at the bottom of the stairs. His son tells him everything is okay and takes his hand, leading him up.

Back in Vietnam, Jacob is declared dead by a doctor in a triage tent. He didn't make it home.
oO0Oo

It's a very entertaining movie and, like a2a, Jacobs experiences could be interpreted in different ways. Maybe the demons and angels he sees are real and he cannot move on until he has made peace with his life or maybe it's all just a delirious hallucination as his brain desperately tried to keep functioning. You could argue that he can't possibly know about the chemist from Rikers Island, that he is simply trying to make sense of what has happened to him. But when he sees the face of his killer, it's at that moment you feel he begins to accept his fate.

After Louis rescues him from the hospital they have an intriguing conversation about Meister Eckhart, the 14th century Christian mystic

Louis: Eckhart saw hell, too. You know what he said? He said "The only thing that burns in hell is the part of you that won't let go of your life: your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away, but they're not punishing you, they're freeing your soul." So the way he sees it if you're frightened of dying and you're holding on...you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels freeing you from the earth. It's just a matter of how you look at it, that's all. So don't worry, ok?


Throughout the movie Jacob has flashes of his discovery in Da Nang, and the medics treating him and airlifting him to hospital


Back home he is troubled by non-human creatures who seem to be trying to kill him

Jacob's Ladder (film) on Wiki
Jacob's Ladder as described in the Book of Genesis on Wiki
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February 2010

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