The Rapture—the very title evokes slippery visions of both spirit and sex: tentative and potentially blasphemous bedfellows that writer-director Michael Tolkin navigates with the precision of a master. His film charts the tumultuous emotional journey of telephone operator Sharon (Mimi Rogers) from Los Angeles swinger to fundamentalist Christian to world’s-end pariah, the role a broad precursor to and mirror image of Julianne Moore’s disease-stricken Carol White in Todd Haynes’s Safe. The comparison is not meant to diminish Rogers’s equally spectacular performance, which seems in part inspired by the physical splendors and feral glances of Bette Davis or Barbara Stanwyck. Befitting the film’s “woman’s picture” pedigree - the director notes in the DVD audio commentary that the more Sharon suffers the more beautiful she becomes - Tolkin reveals the mechanistic male impulses that pine for and desire Sharon’s soul, come they from sources mortal (kind-hearted Randy (David Duchovny) and seductive, snake-like Vic (Patrick Bauchau)) or immortal (the film’s never-seen, though clearly patriarchal God). Sharon’s triumph is that she finally rejects all of these suitors, and as she winds her way through The Rapture‘s desolate later passages (in Tolkin’s darkly comic purview, hell appears as a vacant Hollywood soundstage-with-lightboard) we may think of Davis as the soon-to-be blind Judith Traherne in 1939’s Dark Victory, ascending the stairway to heaven, overwhelming even the almighty with her glow of self-empowerment. Sharon is more clearly uncertain in her final moments (Davis certainly never went for this much introspection), yet it’s Tolkin’s via Rogers’s brave suggestion that there’s a kind of peace in that indecision—listen to the way she speaks the final line (“Forever.”) with a Zen calm that is as chilling for its acceptance of eternity as for its defiance of eternal law. It’s a profound declaration of one individual’s free will in the face of the universe, undeniably tragic yes, but also soberingly, silently rapturous.
The Rapture makes its DVD debut in a solid 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. There are pronounced digital artifacts during the black-backgrounded opening credits, but such distractions are few and far between. There is a tripartite choice of either English DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1, or Stereo Surround soundtracks, along with optional English or Spanish subtitles.
Ported over from the 1997 laserdisc release is a master-class group commentary featuring writer/director Michael Tolkin joined by actors Mimi Rogers, David Duchovny, and (from a seemingly separate audio recording session) Patrick Bauchau. Mirroring the anything-goes nature of the film it accompanies, the track turns on a dime between the serious and the humorous: one moment the participants invoke Moliere's Tartuffe and Fassbinder's Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, the next they're poking fun at certain of the film's nude scenes, stills of which were splashed across numerous tabloid front pages. It's an insightful and essential listen. Rounding out the disc are The Rapture's original theatrical trailer and several other previews for New Line product.
"Who forgives God?"