Alejandro Jodorowsky , director of El Topo ( see my previous entry on this film), made a film in 1973 titled The Holy Mountain. Like El Topo before it, The Holy Mountain is a surreal film full of symbolism, mysticism, and just plain weirdness, for lack of a better term.
The story follows a thief ( Hector Salinas), who meets an alchemist (Jordorowsky) , becoming his disciple. Seven more people are gathered, each representing a different planet. The group is trained in mystical ways for their quest-to go to the Holy Mountain, and gain immortality from the wise men there.
Like most surreal films, the plot summary sounds fairly straightforward. It's the execution that puts the film in a different class than most. Symbols and mystic imagery abound here, inspired by Catholicism, Eastern religions, alchemy, and the Tarot. For example, in the beginning of the film, the Alchemist performs a ritual based on the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Later, after the Thief is 'reborn', he's made drunk by some people who use his Christ-like countenance to make life-sized Jesus staues. The Thief awakes on a large pile of potatoes, surrounded by dozens of Christs, and begins to scream at his betrayal. Still later, the Thief meets the Alchemist by climbing a golden hook up into a tower, inspired by the Tarot card 'The Tower'. More Tarot imagery is found within the Alchemist's tower as well.
Some images , I think, are just straight from Jodorowsky's wild imagination. There's a room with a table, both shaped like an eye, in the Alchemist's tower, for example. A student, when shot to death by fascist government soldiers, has small birds fly out of his gaping chest wounds. Wax effegies are a recurring motif, with the Thief carrying around one of the Christ statues that most resembles him (later eating it's face and tying balloons to it, sending it skyward), and later , in the Alchemist's tower, wax effegies of the seven 'Planet' people, which they ceremonially burn. There is also a circus that re-enacts the Spanish invasion of Mexico using lizards as the Aztecs, complete with feathered headdresses, spears and shields, and frogs portraying the Spanish, decked out in monks robes and conquistador armor.
With scenes like these, this obviously isn't your typical film. I really enjoyed The Holy Mountain. Besides the strangeness and symbolism, there's also a good helping of humor and satire, as well as some wisdom to be had. I wouldn't necessarily want all movies to be like this one, but I'm glad that such films do exist...they're a breath of fresh (and weird) air on the cinematic landscape.
The DVD has some cool extras. There's a bit that shows how the film was remastered, and they did an excelent job. Another extra that I enjoyed was the one on the Tarot, with Jordorowsky explaining the cards and his fascination with them. Probably the most interesting extra was the director's commentary...it was cool to watch the film and then re-watch it with the commentary and see what Jordorowsky had in mind when making the film. In addition to what some of the symbolism means, he also gives info such as why the Alchemist has big boots...not because it was the '70s, but because he liked Frankenstein!
Though not as violent as El Topo, there is a fair amount of violence, as well as nudity and various sexual situations. As I said earlier, there's also quite a few scenes with Christian imagery involved, and not always in a traditional manner...in other words, there's something to potentially offend everyone here, so be forwarned.
If you liked El Topo, you will most likely enjoy The Holy Mountain. If you're willing to take a trip ( which is an appropriate term, in this case) into a mystical, surreal world, check out The Holy Mountain. It's an interesting, artistic, and thought-provoking cinematic journey. The beast gives it his seal of approval. Go watch it.
" It's easy to enter another world if you set your mind to it. Just jump into the void. "