Digital Review – The Holy Mountain (1973)

Alejandro Jodorowsky completed his Mexican based films with perhaps and rather suitably his cinematic holy grail. In the hard to describe, yet must watch The Holy Mountain.

An alchemist (Jodorowsky) takes on a disciple, a Christ-like person and seven other people representing planets to the Holy Mountain on a spiritual journey to find true enlightenment.

If that synopsis feels a tad bare, believe me, The Holy Mountain takes you on such journeys that you really wouldn’t know where to begin in describing it. Accept that you are merely here for the journey and let Jodorowsky lead you where he deems best. Jodorowsky chooses to make this as religious an experience as possible and cherry-picks from a wide variety of religious elements to conjure up a film that would cause outrage and literal riots after viewing.

The offensive and utter blasphemous nature of The Holy Mountain upon release can be distressing to some, our director isn’t interested in enlightening just the group that follows his alchemist (there is a reason he is playing the alchemist) he wants to take those who watch the film to take a similar experience, to realise something deep from within themselves.

He touches upon so many topics here that it would take an essay (or even multiple essays) to breakdown. Not only tapping into philosophical thoughts, but he also explores the worst of man himself. We have desires that are not needed to live a good life, we do not need to be greedy, to lie, to exploit. Yet we do and not only do we do, but a lot of religions also do this. They restrict and force those who follow them to do as they say.

The Holy Mountain starts off exploring this conceit about our society and how far humanity has taken it in the wrong direction and ultimately the issues with religion and its share in the blame. We get introductions in the second act to our other members of the group representing the planets. To give an example of the experimentation that we see, here we can detail the Saturn sequence.

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Our representative states that her customers are children. We see a carnival atmosphere break out in the streets, dwarfs are dressed as mini Santa’s throwing presents here. There is our representative from Saturn in clown makeup rides an elephant. Soon we see her and her crowd reach a building titled toy factory as older men in soldier uniform march to her with their guns. She then gets covered in fur coats as they wipe her clown make up off and she has dressed normally again. Music changes as it becomes sterner, more downbeat as she walks through the toy factory. Elderly people are in grey clothes (everything is grey and dulled)manufacturing war toys. Capitalist at its best and everything that is wrong with it presented to us. She states how children are conditioned from their machines to hate a specific country. How toys and marketing are directing the children the way the country needs them to be in the future. That is a tremendous sequence that is flowing with information and how Jodorowsky thinks the young are influenced by large corporations and how easy it is to do this.

Even as I describe that sequence to you, it does not do it justice. You see so much on screen as the camera constantly moves that you would need multiple viewings to fully comprehend everything you are seeing before you. Jodorowsky’s main theme for each is obvious. He wants to see how flawed each planet is and how change is required. We see abstract surrealist glances into each world. Somehow they are as bizarre, yet compelling as the next.
The Holy Mountain (1973) - Photo Gallery - IMDb
There is no getting around the experimentation nature of these sequences. They are a catalyst for what you will see throughout the rest of the film. As an audience member, you will either fall in love with this technique or be utterly frustrated by it.

The Holy Mountain takes us on a journey that eventually Jodorowsky wants us, the audience to realise that we are our people, who can make their own choices. We do not need outside influences to determine our lives. All of mankind should take hold of their future, our lives before it is too late. We do not need the Holy Mountain, a high power, for we have ourselves.

The Holy Mountain is utterly brilliant in its example of pure cinematic freedom. There is no screenplay, but ideas that are linked together and work. There is also charisma here that works beautifully. Jodorowsky has created a film that needs to be seen to be truly believed. Unmissable.

★★

Available Now On Arrow Video Channel and Part of Alejandro Jodorowsky Collection Blu-Ray (Limited Edition)