Surrealist cinema and the stance it takes against traditional art is an interesting one. I’m not crazy on most of the films within the genre, but can certainly appreciate the vivid imagery and detail that goes into making them. The Holy Mountain is perhaps the one I was most looking forward to, from the interesting mind of Alejandro Jodorowsky comes one of the most inventive, odd and nonsensical films to date. It’s a sort of treat in a way, to look at a film without any sort of streamlined plot, a dumping ground for creativity and extraordinary style.
The Holy Mountain is filled to the brim with maddening visuals. Commonplace are the scenes of top hat wearing Nazis, frogs dressed as crusaders, flowers growing from hands and The Alchemist (Jodorowsky), a figure dressed entirely in black, then white. It’s a film full of randomly weird visuals that never quite come together in a fashion that an audience can muse upon or understand fully. There are truly comical scenes in the early moments of the film, hilariously out there in its visual style. A man sitting in a carved horse as a man who looks like Jesus necks a litre of white alcohol, it’s a strange film to say the least but I struggle to find the point of any of it.
But maybe there isn’t a point to Jodorowsky’s visuals. Perhaps the unique stylings and clear mental breakdown of the director paint a picture of intense yet thoroughly enjoyable imagery. Not understanding the rhyme or reason of the film is all part of the charm, and bigger brains than mine will most likely understand the inspiration behind its ideas towards Catholicism, cults and religious deity. In that sense, the film does become rather enjoyable, a carpet bombing of visual grandeur. There’s a clear motif to the engaging visuals, one that is a lot simpler than first expected. It certainly feels like a criticism of religion, but at the same time is an optical nightmare, pooling together any and every interesting idea to flow from the mind of the director.
If anything, I’m impressed with a cast who can keep straight faces throughout the maddening visuals that appear in the film. A real credit to the film itself, their straight-faced appearance and understanding of each scene they appear in makes the film so much better. The limited dialogue featured is solid enough, delivered in a shaky, unrefined manner. Still, it never takes precedent over the creativity on display, and feels there just to add even the slightest bit of plot to the proceedings.
Feeling more and more like a fever dream caught on film, The Holy Mountain is a certainly entertaining time. Visual nourishment for those looking to delve into a film that looks good, and has fear present within each and every scene. It’s a film I respect more than enjoy, a cacophony of ideas from the mind of a clearly engaging director. The ideas start to wear thin towards the end, but there’s no denying that there’s a certain entertainment to be had with experiencing the various visuals and hilarious yet terrifying optical perseverance on display.