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How can the average person describe the Holy Mountain? They can't, It's one of those films that is so bizarre that one has to witness it at least 5 times to fully appreciate it. Alejandro Jodorowsky takes every form of religion and mysticism and puts it into symbolic imagery, that turns into a two hour mind trip. The film is not thrown together, each scene is so chock full of strange imagery, yet each image has a particular meaning. The plot concerns, the thief, who seems to be representational of Christ in modern times. The thief awakens in the desert, almost crucified by children, he is then rescued by an amputee dwarf. After him and the dwarf share a joint, they travel through different scene after scene of surreal images. In one scenario a police state has taken over downtown Mexico. Innocent people are massacred, and birds fly out of their bullet wounds. The conquest of Mexico is reenacted by frogs and iguanas. The Christ character gets drunk with Roman soldiers, and they make a mold of him to produce statues for profit. And this is all in the first twenty minutes. The occult science of alchemy is another factor of the film. The thief finally meets the alchemist, played by Jodorowsky himself, and the alchemist turns his excrement into gold. The black magic of alchemy involves the nine planets of the solar system. We are then introduced to 7 of the most powerful people in the world named after the planets of the solar system. Each person is corrupt and greedy involved in politics, war or mass marketing. Each person who has their own planet, and a weakness is willing to give up their money and be reborn as a Buddhist monk. In a way these people are alchemists also since they have the ability to turn worthless items such as weapons and cosmetics into riches. Since money is just paper, in a way the magic of alchemy in everyday life convinces us that the dollar bill is of value. Many aspects of life are just an illusion, just as in cinema. In the Holy Mountain Jodorowsky proves to be the master of illusion like a magician. Also his character, the Alchemist has the job of spiritual leader to lead all of the 9 people to the Holy Mountain including the Christ character and the women with the Kaballah tattoos. Also the film is indulgent at times in it's Frued like sexuality and nudity. It is both strange and intriguing, both hilarious and horrifying, and one of the weirdest films your most likely to see. Their is so much that happens in this film, that it's almost impossible to describe. People who are looking for deep meaning in films like Donnie Darko need to keep searching, the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky would be a good start. The Holy Mountain is not only a masterpiece, it's a spiritual journey, and it just might very well change the way you look at the world. Not everyone will like it, so sit back and watch with an open mind. The Holy Mountain is one of the most underrated and important films ever made. 10/10
If you liked "The Wall" (you know, the Pink Floyd movie), but thought it
a bit of a downer and suffered from the lack of a fat woman humping an
excitable, legless, animatronic horse, this movie could be for
Despite what you may have heard, "The Holy Mountain" is more absurd than surreal, more funny than disturbing. Don't worry if your tarot cards are gathering dust and you can't remember the difference between wands and swords--such occult knowledge might help you achieve a few "Oh I get that!" moments during the middle of the film, but the heaps of blatant symbolism aren't really the point. In fact, it may just be that the point is: there is no point. When you see a fat man dressed as the Virgin Mary handing out crucifixes under a sign that says "Christs For Sale", you can rack your brain trying to figure out what kind of statement that makes about society--or you can laugh. When you witness "The Government" indoctrinating children with a hatred for the nation of Peru by printing up comic books called "Captain Captain Against The Peruvian Monster", you can lament the plight of innocents being manipulated for selfish ends--or you can laugh! This film bombards the viewer with outlandish images and juxtapositions like these in rapid fire throughout, so it's easy to get bogged down or confused or numb. The secret to appreciating it all is to come prepared to chuckle--some things you'll "get", some things you won't, but most everything is twisted and absurd and, in some way, funny. Now when you get to the end and Jodorowsky winks at you, you can wink right back.
Basically, if you can appreciate absurdity and profundity and the absurdity of profundity (not to mention enormous, colorful sets), you'll find a lot to like here.
PS: If you do like "The Holy Mountain", head down to your local comics shop (or browse over to your favorite book/graphic novel e-tailer) and pick up a couple of volumes of "The Incal" or "The Metabarons", both of which were also written by Jodorowsky. They're like this movie--every bit as garish and violent and thought-provoking and funny--but they have actual plots (epic space-opera plots, no less).
I don't think this film can be "reviewed" in the normal sense of the
word, only experienced as one would a painting or a piece of music.
Having only seen it two nights ago, I'm not even sure I've fully
processed it. In any case...
To begin, the images, the images. The first 20 minutes contain some of the most astonishing images I've seen, combining Christian iconography, Latin American history, futurism, mysticism, and political commentary. As if Fellini had a sinister twin working with his leftover film and props. As the film progresses I thought the set pieces became a little dated and, frankly, I experienced sensory overload.
I'm sure a lot of viewers would reject this film as pointless or indulgent. Yeah...so? I can't say I understood exactly what Jodoworsky was getting at (if anything), or if it would even make an impact on my view of the world. But if film is to be defined as image over everything else, then Jodoworsky is certainly some sort of master filmmaker. I'd rather watch something like this, filled with ideas (however pretentious), than a plot-driven movie with nothing more on its mind than wrapping up loose ends for the audience.
Now, off to rent Santa Sangre.
How does one start describing writer/director/star/master-of-ceremonies
Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain? Sensational, outrageous,
in-your-face, (the much overused phrase) one-of-a-kind, hilarious,
self-indulgent, dangerous, and enlightening could be some words, and
there could be more. But these are just symbolic of what one goes into
seeing the movie. And what is it to see a movie, to experience it,
Jodorowsky, I think anyway, is essentially asking? What about faith, or
belief that there can be a way to surpass mortality and live forever?
Is there truly any basis to become more than just flesh and bones and
organs and love and hate and desire and greed? Perhaps, in the end, it
might just be art itself. The Holy Mountain is one (bleeping) crazy
art-house picture experience, where the filmmaker asks it's audience to
either go on the journey and be open to whatever he's liable to let out
of the floodgates of his consciousness, or if to be closed off then to
might as well leave. So as it goes, really, with organized religion,
which his own character Jodorowsky plays- the Alchemist- could be
As I left the theater I kept on thinking about what it is to put total trust and confidence in a "master", someone who seems to have all the knowledge and experience to take people to higher planes. At the core, is what the Alchemist can do for the nine "planet" representatives any different than what a priest or a rabbi or a monk can promise? There is a level of intellectual stimulation, aside from the obvious emotional connection to the immense level of surrealism, that keeps one from thinking that this becomes all weird for its own sake. Unlike El Topo, however, Jodorowsky this time is much more in control of his own delirious dreamscapes and, in a sense, the genuine consciousness he creates in his Holy Mountain. He gives us, at the start, something a little much akin to El Topo with piling on Christian symbolism and imagery like its got to get into our heads right away. This part, actually, might be somewhat weaker in comparison with the rest of the film, if only because one wonders where the hell this is all going; a Jesus-figure, who comes into a village loaded with circus 'freaks' and gawkers at such 'freaks', and is put into plaster-casting to make more Jesus figures, which he demolishes except for one which he carries with him for a little while.
There's more than just this, but for the first twenty minutes, which is practically silent and without dialog, we get immensely rich but sort of free-form symbolism, some that is great (the scene with the frogs in the representation of the Spanish conquistadors is absolutely uproarious), and some that isn't, like a strange scene in a church. But soon Jodorowsky moves it along to 'Jesus' entering the realm of the Alchemist, and going under his tutelage (and learning how, mayhap, gold can be the end result of literal excrement), learns about who the other members to go on the journey to the holy mountain will be. It's here that Jodorowsky digs deep into the nature of the period he was filming in and how fascinating and perverse human beings can be. These other members are all shown in vignettes to be "manufacturers", for the most part, of weapons, clothing, architecture, political espionage, and as a police force of a sort. More than ever Jodorowsky throws out the outrageousness to eat up, and really it actually never shows (and maybe it's just me as a jaded 21st century guy) to be as shocking as one might expect. Yes, it's extremely violent (watch out for your genitals, by the way, when around these folks), extraordinarily sexually charged (sex machines anyone?), and meant to be in poor taste and so over the top you don't know what is up or down. At first, I thought it couldn't get much better, as far as sheer surrealist entertainment value goes.
Yet as the last section develops, as the Alchemist takes his pupils to the mountain to meet their promised fates, there's more depth than I would have expected, even from all that preceded it as already containing cast quantities of rich socio-political-sexual commentary and prodding knife stabs at correctness. Religion itself, as Bunuel did in the past, is questioned very strongly and seriously, however still in the context of Jodorowsky having his own subjective approach. Of course, the director- who happens to be at the top of his game here stylistically, second only to Santa Sangre as perhaps his most accomplished effort- did become a shaman himself to make this movie, so there is a level of legitimate connection to what religion says to provide us. At the same time, Jodorowsky is, all the same, questioning what it means to submit yourself to indoctrination, to "nothingness" as the Alchemist says to his pupils in their trances. It's not just Christianity that needs to be taken with a grain of salt, although that is very significant in the final section (the 'monster' over the boat, for example, has a lot that can be read into it, ala sin), but that it has to be in the person to understand what immortality REALLY means. The final revelation at the table on the mountain nails it on the head, and suddenly (or not so suddenly) things become clearer; the final lines by the Alchemist (or rather, Jodorowsky himself), make it a very poignant end to what has been a delirious, hilarious trip into consciousness expansion...
In a word, or a few, what it means to 'experience' a film itself, and once it ends, you step back into some kind of reality. The Holy Mountain is a true love it or hate it movie. I loved it, even as I still wonder what the hell it is I just saw/felt/heard/experienced, and of course if it should be believed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Most of the people who complain about this film say they don't get it and also claim that Jodorowsky went overboard with the use of symbolism and shocking imagery. One reviewer said this:
"It's an episodic documentary that re-enacts much of the suffering and cruelty of past history and man's unceasing struggle to gain enlightenment and immortality which is said to be found on the top of the holy mountain."
Later, in the same review, he states:
"To appreciate this film one needs to be widely read to appreciate the symbolism which permeates the whole movie."
While this movie is up to interpretation, I think this reviewer, like many people who have seen "The Holy Mountain," are reading WAY too much into the symbolism. In the movie, the characters go to seek absolute truth which they believe is on top of the Holy Mountain. They go through many confusing and mystical treks until they finally reach the mountain. When they get there, the wise men are fake and Jodorowsky & Co. laugh at how their trip was pointless. Then Jodorowsky says "Zoom out camera" and the camera zooms out to show the sound crew and cameramen. The whole point of the film is pointlessness. It reveals the absurdity of religion and mysticism. Jodorowsky shows an overwhelming slew of religious and mystical symbolism and many are led to believe that they are significant. However, at the end Jodorowsky lifts the veil and shows that it was all meaningless. Even the movie is an illusion
In the film Jodorowsky says that "There have been hundreds of holy mountains," and he goes on to list several. I feel that Jodorowsky showed so much symbolism and shocking imagery together in order to emphasize the fact that all religious and mystical symbols are equally absurd. Those who think all of this symbolism actually all means something either fell for Jodorowsky's joke, or didn't watch the film to its conclusion (or both). I truly believe that the end of this film reveals the true nature of the message Jodorowsky was trying to get across. The film is meaningless and an illusion, just like religion and the idea of higher powers.
[However I could be wrong ;) feel free to contact me if you wish to discuss this film or anything Jodorowsky]
Astonishingly beautiful, bloody and strange surrealist film. Roughly, about a spiritual quest for enlightenment, truth and immortality; but that doesn't begin to describe Jodorowsky's Fellini-like flood of imagery and symbolism. Jodorowsky himself plays "The Master", an occult adept who assembles a group of people representing the planets of our solar system (a Christ figure for Earth) to ascend the Holy Mountain and gain the secret of eternal life. The qualities of the individual planetary cultures are both based on, and distorted from, their classic meanings in astrology and alchemy - you really need to have some basic reading in occultism to follow this movie - and the stunning ending shot takes the theme of illusion vs. truth to a completely different plane.
The Holy Mountain is an epic exploration of religious experience and global socio-political trends. A scathing indictment of the abuse of power by both first and third-world nations, while simultaneously a wonderfully clever fantasy that exposes art and religion as hilarious tools of mass-mind-control. It is a truly sweeping masterpiece full of amazing imagery and even more impressive thought. And it also has one of the best endings you are likely to see -ever. Too bad it is almost impossible to find.
Alejandro Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain is worth seeing once in a while.
Not because it's difficult to figure out (it really isn't, unless you
insist on figuring ALL of it out at once). But because you will be
seeing a different movie each time, as your own perspective, mood and
Holy Mountain is a meticulously made work of cinematic art. It is simultaneously a brilliant absurdist farce, a cynical satire which lampoons religion and capitalism, an affirmation of faith, an indictment of humanity for its cruelty, ignorance and greed and a celebration of life and the human spirit. Who and where you are will determine your interpretation, so don't blame Jodorowsky! He's just the messenger.
Ostensibly, the film is about a fantastic spiritual journey undertaken by an apparently psychologically disturbed young man who looks a bit like what many Christians believe Jesus to have looked like. This young man begins his journey with insects swarming his face. He is either dead or passed out. Some naked children find him and decide to crucify him for fun. He yells at them (incoherently) and they run away. He then meets an amputee with just a couple half-limbs who becomes his friend for the beginning of the film.
This describes the first five or so minutes of the film's plot. Although the film remains somewhat linear and simply plotted from this point to it end, it also draws deep on all manners of symbolism, mercilessly pokes fun at Christianity, its exploitation and its commercialization, and even throws in some pop-Buddhist concepts accompanied by a prophet with a talent for Jiu Jitsu. The entire crucifixion story is repeatedly portrayed, but with levels of absurdity that would probably have some Americans calling for its censorship today.
Later, our protagonist will embark upon an apparently meaningless quest to climb the Holy Mountain with ten powerful companions. Though likable enough, the hero of the film is neither a hero nor a clearly developed character. His (at least) neurotic behavior, his uncertain sense of justice and sometimes animalistic approach to events make him a difficult character to like, but you will feel compelled to follow-through simply to discover what bizarre reality he will encounter next.
Holy Mountain has some of the most impressive sets and surreal to psychedelic imagery I have seen in films of its vintage. Its soundscaping and soundtrack is also very impressive. The amount of dialog is refreshingly minimal, which also helps the director keep his audience focused on what the film does with sound and vision.
Although the film is gorgeous, sensitive viewers should be aware that there is some fairly disturbing imagery in this film. It is meant to be watched while wide-awake and receptive, but strong.
You can find all sorts of meanings in this film. You can label the film many different things. And you can understand it in whatever way works for you. But please do not make the mistake of thinking you've got it right or that your interpretation is anything but your interpretation. Holy Mountain, like many works of film art, does not work that way.
Highly recommended for intellectuals, connoisseurs of film art, and those who enjoy cult films. Definitely not recommended for those who approach film solely as a means for entertainment, and not recommended for a first date (unless the couple has a strong intellectual bent and an interest in film).
A few months ago, I finally got to see El Topo, Jodorowsky's legendary
western-on-acid. Quite simply, it blew me away. It was just so strange,
so weird, so utterly crazy...I don't know, seeing El Topo on one
viewing doesn't mean you'll be able to comprehend it well enough to
describe it properly. I'll give it a second view some other time.
Anyway....why I mentioned El Topo was because it raised the bar for what I could expect from The Holy Mountain, which promised to be even more of a mind-bending surrealist work than El Topo. For this is how, on the basis of a single viewing, I was prepared to judge The Holy Mountain - on just how bizarre it would get.
This may sound a little shallow, but The Holy Mountain is one of those films that requires several viewings to properly comprehend pretty much everything that goes on. On one viewing, all you can do is try and keep your eyes on screen and try to take in as much of the film as possible. Even if you don't fully understand what's going on, take in the experience. That's what I did when I watched The Holy Mountain.
The Holy Mountain begins by following a man who's best described as Christlike as he engages in his own journey from dying in the desert to a tall tower, where he meets a mysterious figure known as the Alchemist. The Alchemist recruits the man for his own plan, which involves bringing together several "thieves" from around the world so that they can embark on a quest for immortality atop the eponymous mountain.
All this is a loose framework for Jodorowsky's trademark elaborate set-pieces - they're big and they're utterly loony. I don't think I'll bother spoiling any of them, but take any scene from the movie and it'll likely have a large, weird-looking set and at least one or two freaky-looking people drawing your attention. One thing that kept preying on my mind the whole time was just how unbelievable the whole idea of The Holy Mountain was. Like El Topo, it was an epic without a wider appeal, and that jarred me for some reason. It just keeps getting stranger and stranger until the end, which I will have to say was utterly unpredictable.
The Holy Mountain is truly one-of-a-kind. It'd be pretty easy to say this film isn't for everyone, but it isn't. If you're into movies that don't make sense on the first time (or even the 10th time), I'd recommend this. Or if you're just looking for one intense filmic experience, it doesn't get much more intense than the imagery of The Holy Mountain.
I'll end this review now - I've run out of synonyms for crazy.
8/10 - this is after one viewing, it'll probably go up after about 7.
There is probably nothing on earth that can prepare for Alejandro
Jodorowsky's masterpiece, holy mountain.
The synopsis, as bizarre as it sounds doesn't even come close to describing this amazing film. The film introduces the viewer to an array of characters and freaks unlike any seen on the cinema screen. The Holy Mountain is in turns hilarious, confounding, disturbing and perplexing but this Jodorowsky's love letter to the art is never less than entertaining. Filled with alchemical illusions, tarot symbols, existential ideas, explicit gore and violence, gratuitous nudity, sacrilegious imagery, and perverse beauty, this movie will make you live an unusual experience.
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