Louise Weard ♃’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Holy Mountain is by far the most visually amazing film I have ever seen. Every shot of the movie is composed to absolute perfection; Jodorowsky pays attention to every detail of each scene and utilizes imagery better than most directors. As a director, Jodorowsky lets his dreams and feelings guide every aspect of his films, and by putting an unaltered snapshot of his imagination on-screen, he is able to create some of the most beautiful images in cinema.
The most important part of The Holy Mountain is that the visuals aren't hollow, and serve a greater purpose than just being aesthetically pleasing. Jodorowsky uses the film medium to comment on the problems of modern consumerist society, and loads his film with layers upon layers of symbolism. The film doesn't use didactic narration to get its points across, but instead relies entirely on the visual elements of the film. When the film's characters are describing their businesses, they do so from a detached clinical view, omnipresently detailing their daily activities without being critical of the actions taking place.
Jodorowsky utilizes his imagery as a means of being critical of the characters' behaviours; a president's financial advisor is shown in a surreal bathroom, where his wife sits on a massive toilet as he attempts to board up the roof. The image is strange, but by showing the advisor in a bathroom Jodorowsky immediately compares him to bodily waste, and then uses the image of him boarding up the outside world as a symbol of the advisors' reactionary and inhuman policy-making (his solution to economic problems is murdering calculated parts of the population). The depiction of the advisor is definitely the most critical in the film, but each of the other characters, who consist of business owners, an art exhibitionist, and other designers, are all displayed through Jodorowsky's didactic imagery.
Jodorowsky condemns the characters for the first half of the film, and his main character, a poor thief that imitates Christ, is punished for his naivety and greed, despite accomplishing nothing near as bad as the atrocities committed by the others. Jodorowsky finds any level of greed to be the ultimate sin, but rather than punishing his characters, he presents them with a path to enlightened and balanced existence. The first half of the film builds up the problems of society, while in the second Jodorowsky attempts to show a means of salvation. Jodorowsky himself plays the alchemist that acts as a guide for the characters, and he takes them on a spiritual journey that is extended the viewers of the film; by watching his film, the audience is taken along as his student.
While the first half of the film is commercial and perverted, both in form and content, the second half is natural and humanistic. The voyeuristic eye of the camera in the first half, which documents the horrors of society in clean and calculated detail, is set free in the second half, where it climbs the mountain with the characters on a personal level. The audience is no longer a passive outsider that is indicted for the crimes it is watching, but instead has become another journeyman looking for the solutions to the world's problems. The bourgeois and vibrant colours of the first half give way to the subdued earth tones of the second; a natural colour palette that frees the viewer and the characters from the indulgence and greed of consumerist society.
Jodorowsky borrows his ending from the radicals of the New Wave, as he concludes his film by addressing his audience directly. He does not want his humanistic ideology to be contained by the film, he wants to influence the life of the viewer and make the world a better place. By ending the film with this direct commentary, where he breaks mid-scene to pull-out focus and reveal the film crew, serves as a means of breaking the movie's illusion and directly provoking the artificiality of cinema. This zoom ensures that Jodorowsky is being honest with his audience, letting them know that he is presenting them with his ideology and that he wants them to change the way they live. This appeal for honesty makes Jodorowsky both film maker and prophet; the alchemist on-screen is the same as the director outside of frame, they are both the same character.
The Holy Mountain is one of the greatest pieces of political art produced in the twentieth century. Jodorowsky addresses the issues of society without tricking the viewer, and by utilizing surreal imagery he is able to heighten his satire without becoming too setentious. This film is perfect on a visual level, and presents some of the most beautifully memorable images ever photographed. Every part of this film is carefully crafted so that it performs a specific effect on the viewer, and Jodorowsky doesn't shy away from breaking taboo in order to make a point. No other film looks or behaves the way this film does, and nothing else ever will.
The Holy Mountain is a perfect piece of cinematic art.