Viddy Well Recommends: The Holy Mountain
Article by Aaron Haughton
"You are excrement. You can change yourself into gold."
The Holy Mountain comes from the mind of master surrealist and the godfather of the midnight movie, Alejandro Jodorowsky. The film is full of blasphemous images of christianity, rich visual poetry, and satire of consumerism, militarism, exploitation and religion. Often unexplainable and slightly incoherent, the film allows room for the viewer to superimpose their own meaning to Jodorowsky's many visual metaphors and psychedelic poetics through its near wordlessness. In short, the film is a true cinematic spectacle of the highest degree.
The story follows an unnamed thief and his encounter with an Alchemist (played by none other than Jodorowsky himself), who takes the thief on as an apprentice. Together, the Alchemist, his female assistant, and the thief assemble a team comprised of individuals from different planets within our solar system, excluding Mercury (the Alchemist's assistant sorta fills that role) and including the now-denounced celestial body of Pluto. Their goal is to ascend the holy mountain in hopes of gaining the secret of immortality from the nine immortal masters that inhabit the mountain's peak. Over the course of the film, the team is subjected to several bizarre transformation rituals to prepare them for their journey. That's just about the gist.
While the story can be easily verbalized and broken down to the most rudimentary level, the journey and the experience defy words or explanation and must be witnessed to be understood. The best way to describe it would be an acid or shroom trip without the necessity of consumption. It's a must-see for any devout filmhead, intellectual spiritualist, or lover of cult film, and it promises a singular viewing experience that you won't soon forget in this lifetime. Birds flying from bullet wounds, machines that birth little baby machines, toads dressed as conquistadors, shit that literally turns to gold, and much, much more; these are images you never asked for or knew you wanted, but will be glad that you've seen.
The film is based on The Ascent of Mt. Carmel by St. John of the Cross and Mt. Analogue by Rene Daumal. Interestingly enough, it was produced by Beatles manager Allen Keith, and John Lennon and Yoko put up money for the production. George Harrison was even supposed to play the role of The Thief, but was uncomfortable with the nudity. Unwilling to compromise, Jodorowsky forced Harrison to drop out of the project, something he later admitted regretting, as it would've opened the film up to a wider audience.
Often confrontational and easily mesmerizing, it's loaded with social commentary that veers between comedy and seriousness with clumsy grace, leading up to one of the funniest and most surprising finales (whether you love it or hate it) you'll ever see. It's a cinematic experience that I turn to again and again, and it's one whose meaning tends to change or become more enriched as I grow older with age.
Rating: 5 crucified goats out of 5.
What do you think? Is The Holy Mountain the strangest film you've ever seen? If you haven't seen it, are you interested now? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and, as always, remember to viddy well!