The Holy Mountain

The Holy Mountain ★★★★

Existing like an almost ethereal myth in the counterculture zeitgeist, Alejandro Jodorowsky has endured an unconventional legacy within the "midnite-movie" crowd for his strange, violent, and magical visions that defy easy categorization, the perfect method to counteract sleep-deprivation and enhance any trips to another state of mind. Jodorowsky's film output remains microscopic compared to his peers and the length of his career, but that's mainly because the man has preoccupied with numerous roles amidst his spiritual journeys, building up a resume with professions like editor, puppeteer, comics writer, mime, guru, mystic, at least 20 other positions because goddamn, the man just loves chugging the nectar of life. To audiences, Jodorowsky took on the role of "brilliant madman" the moment he presented The Holy Mountain to them, singular in its bizarre and depraved intermixture of as many religious texts and coatings of symbolism as possible, the result of which is incredibly impenetrable and yet neat in its visual splendor and unhibited exploration of free-form spirituality.

Bubbling up as the more discernible metaphors and themes of the film is the negative impact of consumerism, the barbed edges of capitalism sanding away at the personal meaningfulness of spiritualism in favor of diluted greed and excess, where those who live in such a world of broken sins live in complete debauchery that often watches and celebrates sexual/physical violence without reconsideration. A man who starts off as a modest thief evolves into a Jesus facsimile, both figuratively and literally as his splitting image of God's son is abused by its replications, with priest pundits and vendors selling the literal image of the dying icon crucified completely without its original context, and it becomes somewhat clear (comparatively, I should specify, you really gotta dig deep for this shit) that the scum of society don't simply give in to the impartiality of religious ideologies and radicalized action, but rather are the ones who incite it onto others, as the world Jodorowsky criticizes is one where everything, even that same image of Jesus on the cross, is transformed into a weapon for war, just as Judaism is turned into a multi-barreled menorah-shaped gun, and the militarism of modernity becomes just as open in plundering peace-minded theologies into ruthless, passionate gain. These moments are more pronounced in the first third and scattered through the second act's cycle of principal characters, but if there's anything to go by in this endless perpetual conquest of re-contextualized religion and the inability to be satisfied of copying the image and ignoring the message, it's that there will be others intent on defying that level of corruption, letting the metaphorical figure re-ascend to the heavens through at least one soul using religion not as fuel for life's lust, and instead enrichment of one's soul for a better lust for life.

The spiritual climb for enlightenment becomes the end goal for the thief and the seven seekers associated with different planets, a journey that covers an assortment of religious contexts like the Zen Buddhist understanding of rebirth via the destruction of money and effigies (in staunch contrast of the immortal soul philosophies of Christianity-influenced main character) or the symbols of fate in the brief images of Tarot cards and the transformation of divinity capable in sinners like the Thief. The journey of reincarnation and ascension rejects all forms of modernist idealogies, lambasting those who utilize LSD and drugs as shortcuts to nirvana, and instead hews closer to the vague, unclear, and thus deeply personal roadmaps offered in those ancient texts with its mysticism overflowing as Jodorowsky tries to be open-minded about any and every text he finds, which lends itself to a portrait of a soul's enlightenment that's not entirely consistent because spiritual guidance itself is far from consistent, its fractured comparable texts becoming the one thing that can truly send wayward souls towards a better message implicit in the texts, that being that true enlightenment isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

Here's the thing, The Holy Mountain is dense as shit and is perfectly content with letting it all collide into a treatise that's laser-focused on giving a meaning to every image heavily connected to a bounty of sacred words and doctrine, often so obscure that you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who can pin-point each and every belief Jodorowsky apes off in his multi-layered interpretation for the modern age. I recognize this as the director trusting his viewers to work for the answers and put in the energy necessary to understand at least a fraction of what he places on screen, something I'm not at all opposed for (I mean I fuck with David Lynch's world of weirdos and dreams that only really make sense after a sixth viewing, I'm no stranger to exceptional weirdness) and is a work I found myself less receptive of than I was expecting, perhaps because of my unfamiliarity of most religion's inner beliefs, or its presentation's pure abstraction being off-putting on first watch and something that I'd have to try and experience again without the culture shock, something in here just didn't click with me as I found myself just unprepared for how incessantly odd Jodorowsky's vision actually is as it flirts with a lot of ideas all at once and leaves room for something like a conquistador toad reenactment or a faux-tiger breastplate jizz shower (.....that's a new one). If the content adds up to something I overall like even if I think I only understand some of it, the style is what pushes it over into the league of greats, that magnificent rainbow room and the slow-walk shot as the Thief approaches the Alchemist is just marvelous to absorb and take in as the perfect transition from corruption to enlightenment, and plenty of sets and visuals arm themselves with immaculate detail and strong memorability, the remarkable creativity of imagining a room with 1,000 testicles (.....that's another new one) and a hallucinogenic Pantheon Bar remained something I just could not discount for the film's potential lasting power. Astoundingly deranged, beautifully fathomless, my first Jodorowsky has me curious for more.

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