"Eckhart saw Hell too. He said: 'The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you, he said. They're freeing your soul. So, if you're frightened of dying and... 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.'"
-Louis in Jacob's Ladder
Jacob's Ladder is a 1990 horror film.
Jacob Singer is a Vietnam veteran and mailman who discovers demons tormenting him in his day to day life, and also sees assasins hunting him.
The plot is highly similar and derivitive to An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge.
Jacob's Ladder has many layers and is therefore a confusing film subject to much speculation. The fan theories for Jacob's Ladder are more diverse, complex and speculated than all others, since the film is so surreal at times.
Many don't buy into the theory that the entire film is just a "hallucination" while he's dying. The way some interpret the film is that he's literally IN purgatory and has been ever since he died in Vietnam because he wasn't ready to let go. Now, he's been in purgatory for 6 years but that doesn't mean time moves at the same rate there as it does on the physical plane. So, when he soldiers remark that he looks peaceful at the end of the film he truly has made his peace at that point but while only a few hours have passed for them 6 years have passed for him.
Others believe that the events of the entire film are merely a dying hallucination, or at the very least hallucination is part of what is going on. It may well have significantly more spiritual significance than "just" a hallucination. These experiences do not happen after he is dead, but as he is dying. What appear to his as flashbacks to Vietnam are really when he regains consciousness. I don't think we can really say that six years have passed for him, we can't assume that he has actually experienced six years. It's like in dreams where time often "skips ahead" in big jumps.
"The horror of the movie would be in the revelation that hope is hell's final torment, that life is a dream that ends over and over with the final truth: that life was never real, and that we are all creatures trapped in eternal suffering and damnation." - Bruce Joel Rubin on the film's meaning.
This theme is at least one millenium old. It was first documented in 1337, from oral traditions dating back from probably the seventh century (please, read chapter XI from Count Lucanor). The title of the movie is an excessively obvious reference to the biblical story of Jacob's ladder, or the dream of a meeting place between Heaven and Earth (Genesis 28:12), which dates back from the 3rd century BC. A hallucination is not a dream, the connections to Christian stories about the afterlife are just as valid. The appearance of his dead son surely leads the viewer to conclude that he has been dead or "moved on", but As if alluding to another story line in the movie all together. Many believe that there is a mixture of both theories in the film.It is suggested that Louis, Jacob's chiropractor, may actually be Jacob's guardian angel. His name resembles the name of Lus (or Bethel), the place where God placed the stairway to heaven in the biblical story of Jacob.