A former circus artist escapes from a mental hospital to rejoin his armless mother - the leader of a strange religious cult - and is forced to enact brutal murders in her name as he becomes "her arms".
In a Chilean little town, the son of an uprooted couple, formed by a rigorous communist father and a loving but weak mother, tries to pave his own path in a society that does not understand their Jewish-Ukrainian origins.
A Christlike figure wanders through bizarre, grotesque scenarios filled with religious and sacrilegious imagery. He meets a mystical guide who introduces him to seven wealthy and powerful people, each representing a planet in the Solar system. These seven, along with the protagonist, the guide and the guide's assistant, divest themselves of their worldly goods and form a group of nine who will seek the Holy Mountain, in order to displace the gods who live there and become immortal.
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 life changes.
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).
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