The Holy Mountain (1973) – Images, Dreams, Photographs

I feel sorry for how not many people know who is the figure of the most mysterious director in filmmaking history, Alejandro Jodorowsky. Most of his works consist of a picture full of hallucinations, surrealism, and thematic symbolism. If you recognize him because of “El Topo”, a western acid psychedelic movie, “The Holy Mountain” is his best work. Most of his works are very difficult to explain. It’s hard how Jodorowsky even knows what he was doing. In this film, it’s hard if I explain or describe what the film is.

“The Holy Mountain” to begin with is a movie with a well-structured story. But, as long as you go straight into the mind of Jodorowsky, you know that this is an abstract film. In contrast to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, this movie honestly isn’t too abstract. First of all, “2001: A Space Odyssey” is a movie that has a lot of symbolism. It’s about human evolution, technology, and enigma. I can watch the film from any perspective. The paradox I got was different from my first, second, and third viewing. On the other hand, “The Holy Mountain” expands its world and territory into an exaggerated way. It’s more like it provides a very different experience. Minimal dialogue, artistic set, and cinematography, abstract painting, what exactly is all this?

From one scene to another scene, it has a fast pace. However, the number of nonsensical scenes doesn’t make you paranoid. Take a look, for instance, all David Lynch movies. Lynch never tells what the story is and the meaning in all of his films. In contrast to Jodorowsky where he knew what exactly he was directing. The story, simply put, tells the story of the Christ-like stranded on the ground and discovering that the world is chaotic now. He saw how men went crazy, how women became an object of materialism, religion became an experiment of a capitalist, and so on. The Christ-like, or the thief, discovers that he is nothing after meeting the alchemist (Alejandro Jodorowsky).

The alchemist proves that the thief has one uniqueness. That uniqueness is the thief’s excrement can turn into gold. They both have a mission to collect seven figures of Gods from various planets and find the holy mountain to become immortal. Their mission is just one, to make themselves immortal and free. Each God has differences in controlling their planets. There is the one who manufactured a weapon and turns them into religious symbols. There is an art museum that uses nudity and female objects as part of “art”. And there is this planet where God is brainwashing children by filling them in with propaganda through comics and giving them toy guns.

The simplest question from viewers is what exactly is this film. There are so many disturbing scenes especially those of you who don’t like abused animals or other disgusting scenes. It probably would make you forget what movies are. This film, in essence, is very thematic from all points of view, philosophical, or political whatsoever. Every shot is beautifully symbolic. Not only has many interpretations and meanings, but it also gives a layer of how each image is full of discourse. I can say that the movie, until the beginning and the end, tells the story of freedom from the “God” who arbitrarily insulted his people. From beginning to end, the alchemist and other Gods try to overtake the throne into the holy mountain until they finally rule the world.

“The Holy Mountain” is also a monument like “2001: A Space Odyssey”. We know how “2001” became the most failed film of the year and became the most influential film in terms of quality and meaning. It’s predicting the world 50 years into the future where technology becomes a human benchmark. “The Holy Mountain”, on the other hand, it’s like that. It’s a parallel between the state of the world in that year and how it is today. The movie is satirizing real-life uniquely. It’s exaggerating everything. You got a sex machine and you can use it as you go. It’s also predicting how people, in this era, can married technology.

All of the symbolism in this movie show in a simple way yet told in a complicated way. The movie theme tells about fragility, greedy, and corruption. Jodorowsky’s universe describes real-life and everyday life as part of why all of these events occur. You have media and police officers who are no longer concerned with human morality. You also get how religion is bought and sold by uncivilized humans. The theme is also about God has ceased to exist in the world. All you need is how you can survive the greedy of the world and humans now.

In addition to “The Holy Mountain” being one of the unique arthouse films, this might be one of the bizarre endings I have ever seen in a film. The ending surprised me in a lot of ways, not because of how Jodorowsky blurred the reality between audience and characters. That’s because it’s so much fit with the context, the theme, and the whole plot of the movie. One simple question arises in my mind: do we have to obey God? Does God’s existence exist? Yet, if I watch this movie again, I’ll never get an answer. Such a simple yet powerful direction can be one of the thoughtful and provocating experiences you have ever felt.

Most of the dialogues don’t mean anything because they just speak like normal in general. One of the keys to how “The Holy Mountain” is such an experience because of the visuals, cinematography, exposition in every image, set, decoration, etc. This is a gorgeous movie ranging from this aspect. I’m also a bit sorry people don’t give enough mention, awards, and others. Every frame is well shot, well-executed, and so beautiful. One sequence when the thief climbs to the top of the tower and walks into a rainbow room is just fantastic. I had to see the scene again and again. Not only it gave me a chill but there was a lot of meaning from all the corners.

It’s not a movie for everyone, especially when you want to watch a three-act structure movie. But, “The Holy Mountain” managed to provide an unforgettable yet memorable cinematic experience. Every scene is sick yet it’s full of meaning, symbolism, and a lot of philosophical things to say. Just because of this movie, I know who Alejandro Jodorowsky was. After being a filmmaker for a long time, he still made a film today. He is a man who knows everything rather than everyone. Every word he said in this movie is like a spell. It gives me a shock I can’t explain at all. To conclude, don’t stay here. Watch this movie. It awaits you.

5 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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