Lucien’s review published on Letterboxd:
When attempting to cover a film as surreal and unique as Jodorowsky’s iconic cult fave, I’ve decided the best place to start is with my own, personal experience. Being an inherently visual journey, the bottom line is that no words will ever do the film complete justice. Still, if I can comment on how I reacted to this swirling array of grotesque and beautiful images; I may stand a chance of capturing a slice of what this film is all about.
Sitting where it does in the landscape of films that bear immense cult followings, it was impossible not to go into this film with some kind of expectation of what I was going to see. However, being my first Jodorowsky, I now realise that it doesn’t matter what kind of expectations you may have for a bizarre and wild venture into the surreal, they are only going to become bulldozed the second after hitting play. Any outline of the film you may have once pictured, formed from iconic images littered around the web will be instantly cast aside as you’re pulled headfirst down the unforgettable, psychedelic rabbit hole that is The Holy Mountain.
I felt instantly discombobulated as I was met with confrontational, LSD-tinged images depicting the wildest of happenings that could have easily been pulled directly from my subconscious. After a few minutes, I adjusted to this seemingly incomprehensible yet distinctly familiar world and opened up to the kind of experience I was in for. One of a greatly spiritual nature that would benefit from a close-eye as I quickly caught onto the fact that every other image was laced with multiple layers of very direct symbolism covering all manner of themes. Most notably, those of religion, militarism, capitalism, death, rebirth and corruption. More specifically, the corruption of the human soul.
With this mindset established, I allowed the film to pull me in whatever direction it pleased, no matter how dark or twisted it may be. It wasn’t long before the film’s once alien logic began to make sense and I became immersed under the guiding presence of The Alchemist (or more accurately, Jodorowsky himself) This film was a masterclass in meticulous production design, featuring some of the most creative and innovative I’ve seen (it was at this point that the Ye influence began to click into place) Every composition had some strategically placed subtext that would become spun into some grand metaphor the moment it was met with movement or interaction with one of the characters. The props, costumes, sculptures and paintings as well as patterns and colours they were dressed with, all carefully considered, fleshing out the world and bringing everything to life in staggering detail. Seriously, this is a production design that easily gives Wes Anderson a run for his money (Jodorowsky certainly wins if it was a contest between who’s sets feature more bodily fluids)
As I became lost in this one of a kind circus/ritual/ authoritarian mishmash, my experience took a turn toward what I would describe as the appearance of a spiritually fulfilling and highly rewarding psychedelic trip. There were distractions in the form of a few pseudo-deep tangents and unneeded indulgent inclusions, but overall the message was as clear as day and profound in its pure simplicity. On the other side of a chaotic, disturbing and disorientating mystic voyage, I emerge perhaps slightly more balanced than I went in. At the very least this film acted as a reminder of what is truly important and what is hollow and tainted with the many flaws of humanity.