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Jacobs ladder

Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's Ladder is a film which draws specific conclusions on exactly what takes

place in a person right before death, and the afterlife which await them. Hell

is seen as a temporary stop where people's memories and attachments are taken

away so that they can enter heaven cleansed of their past life in order that a

new beginning can be had. Death is seen as something that should not be feared,

it only makes your inevitable transition into the next world more difficult,

while being at peace with yourself at death allows the transition to your

afterlife to run smoothly without remorse. Heaven is seen as a good place, a

place of inner tranquillity where there is no pain. The cultural attitudes of

this film in respect to death and afterlife have undertones of the Christian

attitudes toward death and afterlife, although large differences do exist. The

central cultural attitudes toward death and afterlife in this film can be summed

up by a quotation from Jake's chiropractor (who can also be seen as his guardian

angel), who 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 it all

away. But they aren't punishing you, they're freeing your soul." The

chiropractor also says that the way he sees it, "If you're frightened of dieing

and you keep trying to hold on you'll see devils tearing your life away. If

you've made your peace then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the

earth." The film Jacob's Ladder uses the character of Jacob Singer to

demonstrate how the film's creators view death and afterlife. The central

character in the film is a man by the name of Jacob Singer (Jake), who is in

Vietnam in 1971 fighting for the U.S. against the Vietcong. The film begins with

a surprise attack by the Vietcong on the American camp which started a furious

gun fight with heavy casualties. Jake is himself severely wounded in the stomach,

which as you find out later is a mortal wound of which he is dieing. The rest

of the film appears to take place over a period of days to weeks or at least

that is how Jake perceives it to be, however as far as time goes this is all

taking place between the time that he was wounded and the time that he dies

(probably a few hours). All of what Jake sees he believes to be real, but it is

really hell that his mind\soul has been taken to in order that his feelings and

attachments to the life he is about to leave can be taken away. Jake wakes up

from a dream where he had been thinking back to that time in Vietnam, and he

realises that he is on a subway with strange demon-like individuals. The subway

represents the way he is transported from this life to hell although he does not

realise this, he believes that it is after the war and he is coming back from

work like any normal day. After getting off the subway, Jake goes home to his

girlfriend Jezebel. Jake believes he has been divorced from his wife Sara for

some time and that she through him out. Jake looks at old pictures of Sara and

his son's Gabe and Jed, he cries when he looks at them, because he misses them.

Jezebel became annoyed with Jake's love for his former family and takes the

pictures and burns them. All of this that Jake takes to be reality is really

hell, Jezebel is really a devil (demon) including everyone else Jake encounters

(accept the chiropractor who is his guardian angel). They are all trying to

erase his memories and attachments to his past life so that his soul can be

freed from earth and can enter heaven. This is why Jezebel burns the family

pictures, so that Jake will not remember his family, to erase his memory of


From time to time in the film Jake will flashback to memories of Vietnam during

that period of time when he was wounded and being brought to the hospital.

Almost like little images or clips that he picked up as he came in and out of

consciousness. These images that he recalls are really Jake's periods of

greatest resistance to death, where he is fighting hell's attempts at taking his

memories and attachments. During these periods throughout the film Jake is

really coming back to life for brief moments. The harder Jake tries to fight his

inevitable death the worse and more bizarre his experiences become in hell, as

the demons must try harder to take his memories and attachments from him. The

majority of the devils\demons that Jake encounters in hell appear as normal

looking human beings. However, some appeared slightly deformed and mutated

looking more like what most people imagine them to be. Jake throughout the film

is always in denial that he could be dieing. Therefore, the demons try to trick

Jake into loosing his memories and attachments by confusing him, messing with

his head. For example Jake had been a part of the Veteran's Outpatient Program

under a doctor Carlson, after some strange encounters he needed to talk to

Carlson so he went back to the hospital that he had been seeing Carlson at for

years. He was told that the doctor had never worked there and that he was not on

file as ever being a patient there. Another example involves Jake at a party

with a palm reader who tells him that according to his lifeline he should

already be dead. An interesting point in the film is when Jake meets up with

five ex-army buddies who were with him on the day of the raid, and none of them

can remember what happened during and after the massacre. They all blame this

memory lapse on some sort of government cover-up and get a lawyer to investigate

the matter, and they all admit that they keep seeing strange demons showing up

around them. Suddenly Jake's five friends back out with their only excuse being

that "it's war, stuff happens." Jake cannot understand why his friends have

deserted him, but what has really happened is his friends were also mortally

wounded in the raid in Vietnam and are now in hell with him, however they do not

have the same will to hold on like Jake does and have given up in their

resistance and died. Jake also meets up with another army buddy Paul Rutger from

that day in Vietnam, Paul is completely paranoid of the demons and believes he

is about to die. Sure enough after talking to Jake, Paul leaves and is killed in

a car bomb. Paul was obviously also mortally wounded in the raid but had the

most unpleasant stay in hell because he was the most frightened of all of death.

Throughout the film the one person that Jake can trust is his chiropractor who

is also his guardian angel. Jake has a bad back so he goes in for treatments to

see his chiropractor for therapy. Not only is this therapy physical but

spiritual as well, with the chiropractor guiding Jake in what he should do to

make it through hell, without actually letting onto Jake that he is in hell. The

chiropractor wants Jake to be at peace with himself so that he can leave hell

and enter into heaven, he also physically protects Jake from the devils who

would torment him more by tearing his life from him by force. For example Jake

was kidnapped by human-like devils and escaped by jumping from their car,

severely hurt he was taken to a hospital where he was brought on a stretcher

through an insane asylum where blood and body parts covered the ground, he was

strapped down and devils of which one was Jezebel began to poke him with needles.

Jake woke up in a hospital room with the chiropractor barging in taking him out

with little resistance from the hospital staff that were devils. It seems from

this example that in this hell guardian angels have power over the devils, power

to interfere and look out for the well-being of the person they are in charge

of. The chiropractor brought Jake back to his office and gave him one of his

treatments which fixed Jake up physically, then he gave Jake the spiritual

advise he needed to make it through more easily during the period of time he

would have to spend in hell. Repeating from earlier the chiropractor 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," "If you are frightened of dieing and

keep on trying to hold on you'll see devils tearing your life away. If you've

made your peace then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth."

By saying this the chiropractor meant that if you are going to die (which Jake

will do) then be at peace with yourself, don't try and hold on to the things

which you can have any more (Jake's family), accept this fate and your

experience in hell will not be as unpleasant.

The biggest reason for Jake's difficult time in hell is that he won't give up

his memories and attachment to his family, his wife Sara and two sons Gabe and

Jed. The love for them and the desire to be with them again is the driving force

behind him holding on to life as long as he can. However, after having that talk

with the chiropractor Jake sees that he can still love his family and cherish

the memories, but that he will never be able to see them again and that's just

the way it is so don't try to stop the inevitable it will only hurt you more in

the end. Be at peace with yourself, it is better for you. Jake's acceptance of

this was displayed when he told a cab driver to take him back to his old house

that he had with his family. His son Gabe was sitting at the bottom of the

stairs, Jake hugged him and told Gabe that he loved him. A bright light began to

shine at the top of the stairs, Gabe stood up and took his father by the hand

and walked him up into the light (heaven). At that moment the doctors in the

hospital back in Vietnam pronounced Jake dead, "Ok, he's gone, he looks sorta

peaceful the guy, put up one hell of a fight though." Jake had finally made

peace with himself allowing his physical body to die and freeing his soul to go

on to heaven.

The attitudes toward death and afterlife in the film are in many ways similar

but also different then what the Christian views are. Both have a heaven and

hell, however in the film hell is a temporary place where your soul is freed of

your past life, it is prepared so it can enter heaven. Whereas the Christian

view of hell is of a place where those who did not merit heaven through their

life on earth are sent for all eternity in great suffering. Christianity

believes you go to one or the other but not both as in the film. The film does

not comment much about heaven other than giving the impression that it is a

place that you can be at peace with yourself, free from any pain of your earthly

life. Whereas Christianity sees heaven as being a place of eternal happiness, a

place where you are delighted beyond your wildest dreams, a reward for leading a

good life on earth. The difference portrayed of heaven and hell in the film is

not as extreme as Christian views, where hell isn't "fire and brimstone"

it'sjust a temporary place of cleansing and heaven just a calm peaceful place,

not a place of more happiness then you could ever imagine. Christianity

portrays a heaven and hell as major polar opposites, either incredibly good or

unbelievably bad. Both are more similar in their views of guardians angels which

are assigned to a person in order to protect and help them out. Christianity

sees devils as incredibly evil spirits who tempt you into falling toward hell.

The film sees devils as spirits who perform the unfortunate but necessary task

of forcibly freeing a person's soul from the earth, not near as bad as the

Christian outlook. No reference to a god is made in the film or even the

existence of one, although one would assume a god must exist, a god who dictates

the roles of hell and the devils, as well as heaven and the angels.

The film Jacob's Ladder portrays a much different attitude toward death and the

afterlife then what most religions profess. At death a person must go to hell

where their soul is freed of the earth by the devils who erase their old

memories and attachments, the more at peace the person is with their death the

easier the process is. Once the person is at peace with themselves, they can

enter heaven. Guardian angels are assigned to each person to help them make as

smooth a transition from hell to heaven as possible. In certain ways the death

and afterlife portrayed in Jacob's Ladder appear similar to those depicted in

Christianity, although substantial differences do exist.

Source: Essay UK -

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