'The Matrix' vs 'Jacob's Ladder'

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(Scott speaking directly below, not my usual snip n paste...)

The Matrix is a cool flick about a hidden evil reality underlying and contradicting the apparently seamless daily life around us. There's a good exposition of the Gnostic elements of the basic premise on (this) HMA board at: The Matrix, Gnostic Elements (review).

But what neither that review nor anything else I've seen points out is the obvious parallels between The Matrix and a much earlier (and far superior) film, Jacob's Ladder. (cf. Jacob's Ladder, imho truly one of the most compelling and interesting movies ever made.

I compare TM to JL because it is very obvious that the directors of TM owe a heavy debt to JL, a fact which appears to have escaped the reviewers I've read so far. In JL, a scroungy guy's regular life in NYC begins to 'leak' around the edges, as demons claw through his reality and through their claw marks in his life, so to speak, a dark light of the truth of his existence first trickles, then pours through. The whole look and feel of TM appears to be a direct derivative from JL (of course TM is derivative from other sources also), and the movie owes JL from its surface to its philosophical core.

Unfortunately, interesting as TM is, it does not even come close to JL as a convincingly chilly evocation of the moments when a regular feels that his reality suddenly is neither 'his' nor 'reality' any more. This is partly the result of an apparently conscious decision on the part of TM's people to flash out the weirdness of the cyber world from the first scene, which puts the view on guard from the word go, rather than let the reality slowly, deliciously, and horribly 'leak' as JL does so brilliantly. Further, the main actor in JL is a much more interesting person than Keanu Reeves' Neo.

But JL is pure Gnosticism, without the explicit high-tech twist of TM (though the drug aspect of JL is a kind of technology I suppose).

Anyway, future exposition of the depths of meaning in TM should pay some attention to its obvious spiritual ancestor, Jacob's Ladder

-- scott (hma5_5@hotmail.com), February 15, 2000


The main difference between TM and Jacob's Ladder is that, in the latter film, the protagonist "wins" by giving up - he accepts his own death and ascends to heaven, a void of pure white light. Whereas in The Matrix, Neo learns the truth, then has to fight for his life. One is passive, the other active. While JL is a better film in many ways, it lacks the message of spiritual empowerment, and thus becomes another exercise in dime-store Zen. In fact, if I were one of the "controllers" in a Matrix-like world, I could think of no better movie to show people... resistance is futile, heh.

-- Paul D. Gilbreath (gilbreathfamily@worldnet.att.net), June 09, 2000.

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