Stairway o heaven
It’s almost four years since
1 Fatal Attraction made
philandering husbands think twice about a bit on the side. Now British-born director Adrian Lyne is back with Jacob’s Ladder. 3 paranoic horror fantasy set in contemporary New York. Alan Morrison shares the nightmare.
‘The end . . . ‘Adrian Lyne reﬂects fora moment. ‘ . . . well. yes. it pisses some people off. Reading the script. I would come across points where I knew some members ofthe audience would part company with it and say ‘Enough!’ It‘s like a maze. you have to search your way through it. but people would rather be given it on a plate.‘
Starting at the end may not be the
best way to conduct an interview. but ; in the case ofJacob '3 Ladder. it‘s
that controversial last minute that will make or break the movie for the
1 average film-goer. Overthe next half j hour. director Lyne constantly refers
to those revealing final moments and to other key twists that pepper the
movie at strategic points. Which is all
very interesting ifyou‘ve seen it already. but it doesn‘t make writing it up any easier. Suffice it to say that
i this is a film that goes beyond easy genre definitions of ‘horror‘ or
‘conspiracy theory" or ‘reality versus fantasy".
Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins in an awesome performance) is a Vietnam veteran. a college graduate with a PhD. who is now happy to live a quiet life as a postman in the psychological aftermath of the war. But more and more he is suffering from hallucinations. seeing demons on the subway and on the New York streets. Recurring flashbacks to the night his platoon was all but wiped out convince him that his madness has something to do with a botched chemical warfare experiment in Vietnam. The three conflicting time sequences — with his ex-wife in the days before Vietnam. the war ﬂashbacks. and his present life with his girlfriend Jezzie - make Jacob‘s Ladder a difficult film to get to grips with. but. on the other hand. Lyne has avoided using the cheap. gimmicky end of the ‘dream within a dream' device and has instead created a truly disorientating nightmare experience.
The original screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin contains a more
intellectual treatment ofthe same
Eastern—influenced philosophies on life and death that appeared in a commercial form in Rubin‘s hit of last year. Ghost. It knocked about Hollywood for years. earning a reputation as one of the best unproduced screenplays in the film capital. before landing on the desk of a certain Mr Lyne who was fast becoming disillusioned by the dross he was offered in the wake of his Oscar nomination as Best Director for Fatal Attraction.
‘Funnily enough. round about that time I read Ghost as well. and I liked Jacob '3 Ladder much better as a screenplay. Although I think it is horrifying. I don‘t quite know if I‘d call it a horror film. whatever that is. I tried to keep the suggestion of traditional imagery because the way that Bruce wrote it was very much in
Old Testament terms -— when he talks
about the Devil. it‘s the guy with the horns. the tail and the pitchfork. I knew that if I‘d done that literally. people would either have laughed or wouldn‘t have been frightened.‘
Most of the special effects were done at the time ofshooting. using make-up and mechanical effects rather than letting a specialist company go away for a few weeks and come back with a self-contained package. For inspiration. Lyne turned to the paintings of Francis Bacon. and the resulting images of blurred. tortured beings with one foot in this world and the other in the next are chillingly effective.
‘With a hit behind you. the studios are more likely to allow you to do something that won‘t necessarily be
Tim Robbins and Matt Craven in Jacob‘s Ladder
a hit.‘ he admits. ‘and it‘s crazy if you don‘t use that power to do a film that you really believe in. With the exception of Flaslzdancc. which I didn‘t really want to do. to be honest. I‘ve always just reacted to material on an emotional level. I was knocked sideways by this script.‘
This easy-going relationship with studio executives seems a bit at odds with the rumours of a forced re-shoot of Fatal Attraction‘s climactic scene. but Lyne is adamant about his position on the earlier film: ‘It isn‘t true — I chose to re-shoot the ending because the other one wasn‘t very ; good. The crew were a little depressed because we knew the movie worked until the last five minutes. so we used an ending which was baroque and a bit over the top. but which I knew was better than the other one. Maybe it makes better press to say that the studios forced me. but it never happened. and hasn‘t on any film I‘ve done. Then again. they would have been happy if I had changed the ending ofJacob '5 Ladder. to make it easier for the audience.‘
Ah. yes. back to that ending. ‘You win some people and you lose some people.‘ Lyne says without bitterness. ‘Ifyou speak to one person who really relates to it the same way you do. then it makes it okay.‘ Looks like I‘ve made at least one middle-aged director happy this vear.
Jacob 3' Ladder (/8) opens at Illt’ (:‘rosvenor and ( ‘amtom. (i/asgoiv, a! the ( 'ameo. Edinburgh. and a! L '( ~ls across ( 't’ntra/ Scotland on Fri 27.
1 Stanley Kubrick was.‘
THE FILMS 0F ADRIAN LYNE
Born in Peterborough 50 years ago, but raised in London. Adrian Lyne discovered an early passion oi the iilms oi European directors. including Truiiaut, Bergman and Antonioni. Work as a director oicommercials and two shorts. The Table (1971) and Mr Smith (1974). both oi which were well received at the London Film Festival. brought him to the attention oi the iilm industry. Most oi his time is now spenteither working in the States or at home in rural France.
I Foxes ( 1979) Four teenage girls (one played by Jodie Foster) spend their formative years immersed in sex and drugs and rock and roll in LA‘s San Fernando Valley. Lyne: ‘I got to know these kids. I sat in class with them and really researched it.‘
I Flashdance ( 1983) Jennifer Beals spends her life alternating between her day job as a welder and her night work as a dancerin a men‘s club. Lyne: ‘The script wasn‘t Shakespeare. but the challenge was to do something dazzling visually with the dancesf
I 9% Weeks ( 198(3) Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger get up to suitably kinky things involving rain-soaked alleys and blindfold chilli-eating. Lyne: ‘It was really massacred by critiCs in the US when it came out. but I feel that time has vindicated it to a certain extent. It has become a part of the vocabulary.‘
I Fatal Attraction ( 1987) Oscar nominations and box office bucks went hand in hand as married lawyer Michael Douglas tries to end his affair with a rather deranged Glenn Close. Lyne: ‘lt wasa little story . a relationship piece — it wasn‘t Raiders oft/re Lost .4 rk .'
I Lolita ( 1991’) Working again with seriptwriter James I)earden. Lyne is currently tackling Nabokov‘s steamy tale of a middle-aged man's passion for a teenage nymphet. l.yne: 'I'm trying to be more faithful to the novel than I think
The List 27 September—— lll()etober199115