Genre, Narrative, and (Mis)remembering the Vietnam War in Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

Nick Redfern


In this article I examine the role of memory in Jacob’s Ladder (1990), and I argue that Jacob’s Ladder takes as its subject cultural memories of the war and dramatizes the problematic status of cinematic representations of the past as public memory. This is evident in the way in which the film draws on the viewer’s generic memory through the remediation of the iconography of contemporary Vietnam War films such as Platoon (1986), Hamburger Hill (1987), Casualties of War (1989), and Born on the Fourth of July (1989) but refuses the narrativization of the soldiers’ experience through the use of a modular narrative form. I argue that Jacob’s Ladder inhibits the formation of cultural memories about the war through a critique of the ‘veteranness’ of the ‘grunts’ war’ films of the late-1980s that sought to extend the experience of the Vietnam War to the viewer cinematically as a form of recovered memory. I also examine the ways in which Jacob’s Ladder represents the scenes of reminiscence as being both therapeutic and traumatic and discuss how the film presents an alternative path to coming to terms with the past through conscious acts of remembering and forgetting.


Cultural memory; genre; Vietnam War films; Jacob’s Ladder; modular narration

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Data publikacji: 2022-12-28 15:00:08
Data złożenia artykułu: 2022-01-21 12:18:00


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