The Holy Mountain

The Holy Mountain ★★★★½

Even nearly 50 years after its release, Alejandro Jodorowsky´s psychedelic surrealist extravaganza “The Holy Mountain” feels ahead of its time. Actually, I´m not sure if its time will ever come or if it will remain a fascinating anomaly.

“The Holy Mountain” is a testament of complete artistic freedom. It´s totally bonkers and playful, but also has a thought-out underlying concept. It might feel like an episodic string of singular strange yet original and intriguing ideas, yet these vignettes actually form a cohesive narrative, and every scene serves Jodorowsky´s overarching thesis. Deciphering that thesis is the difficult yet fun part. The movie is incredibly dense, and every scene is rich with symbolism, references, and allegory. I can´t unpack it all, but what I understood is that “The Holy Mountain” is an unflinching and audacious social satire that attacks all kinds of secular and religious ideologies and institutions, while also exploring sexuality, spirituality, society, materialism, greed, power, mortality, enlightenment, the human condition, existentialism, and the nature of truth and reality, among other themes.

Even if the subtext and metaphors don´t click with you, you can enjoy the film as a grand visual spectacle, as it features breathtaking production design, mesmerizing imagery, meticulous shot composition, and incredible attention to detail. Usually, I´m already glad when a film has 1-3 images I´ve never seen before in some form or another. This movie has dozens of such images. To say that it overflows with creativity would still be an understatement. And the fantastic score is the cherry on top.

To be fair, the surrealist assault on the sense becomes exhausting after a while and made my brain fried, and yes, maybe the film is a bit too self-indulgent, but that´s small criticism for such a one-of-a-kind piece of art. “The Holy Mountain” is bold, ambitious, bizarre, absurdist, layered, and imaginative cinema. It doesn´t just push the boundaries of the medium, it annihilates them. And it has a lot of fun doing it.

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