The Rapture

(Michael Tolkin, USA, 1991)


There are few things more fascinating in the world of film, video or DVD distribution than an object which has obviously baffled its handlers so completely that they are forced to invent a completely spurious pitch for it – while simultaneously repressing any mention of what the film is actually about.

Amidst all the guff on the video cover of The Rapture about it being a "sensual thriller ... pulsating with suspense", there is a single true statement: "Nothing will have prepared you for what you are about to see".

Nowhere in this blurb will you learn that the film is centrally about fundamentalist Christianity.

Religious belief is virtually a taboo subject in popular cinema. Even films with a quasi-spiritual element like Ghost (1990) fastidiously erase any explicit reference to deities or churches. Rarest of all is a film that tackles the topic of fundamentalism without instant recourse to smug, derisive irony.

The Rapture, written and directed by Michael Tolkin (author of book and screenplay of The Player [1992]), espouses neither a devout nor an atheistic position. Its story of Sharon (Mimi Rogers) and her startling passage from empty, drifting amorality (involving David Duchovony) to fundamentalist fervour carefully weighs up all sides of the argument. In its extraordinary final scenes, however, the film confronts the Christian mythology of the Last Days entirely on its own turf.

It is little wonder, finally, that this astonishingly original and bold film puzzled its distributors. Working beyond any familiar genre, bewildering our expectations at every turn, switching in a moment from droll comedy to spooky sublimity, Tolkin's vision grips us even in its less well-executed passages.

The Rapture is truly one out of the box.

© Adrian Martin October 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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