Jakob, a former teacher who lost his job due to the new Communist system, can only stand by and watch as the world around him slowly disintegrates, and fear and suspicion rule the day. Like most of the men, he soon finds himself in a Soviet prison.Written by
A plot twisting script based on a long-forgotten real drama with real people, I found "Under Jakob's Ladder" heartbreaking, humorous and empowering. As Stalin's marginalization tactics pushed up against human rights, the main character, Jakob, found his identity, purpose and freedoms to be in flux within his German-Russian community. Revenge, familial fidelity, ethical wrestling matches, the best of times, the worst of times...this movie has it all.
The cinematography evoked sentimentality, longing and an empathy toward the main character and his tiny cohort. The refreshing humour echos the timing and wit of these peoples. And the music! It plays a restorative, powerful, freeing role within each characters lives. It's been a while since a movie showed the capacity of musical notes.
As the movie title suggests, there is scriptural reference here. The scriptural Jacob slept on a rock, dreamt of a stairway to heaven and, well, hard times and finding a connection between heaven and earth is something Jakob has in common with that other Jacob. Both men might be called a community's center—someone others look to, are willing to follow aka "under" Jakob's ladder. I'll be illusive in interpretation so you can discover other mirroring aspects or new symbolism yourself.
Movies that i find similar are The Pianist, Bitter Harvest and Selma. The civil rights aspect, basic humanity and the finding oneself on the other side of the law for keeping to your own conscience is Selma's connection. In Bitter Harvest, the focus remains on a romance, yet the setting is similarly the Stalinist moves that sent ripples tearing through small communities. While The Pianist showcases the courage it takes to remain an entity while one's identity is denied. I could see all these films in a Humanities 101 class, "Under Jakob's Ladder" included.
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