The Holy Mountain (La Montana Sagrada) (Movie Review)
I’ve been reading some of the reviews from people who have been to screenings of Rob Zombie’s latest film and they all point to Alejandro Jodorowsky as a huge influence. I’ve been really psyched about this movie, and since God only knows when we’ll get to see a wide release of “The Lords of Salem,” I figured the next best thing would be to watch something by Jodorowsky instead.
After watching “The Holy Mountain” I feel like I made a really good choice because what I found was a two hour parade of crazy images, acid-influenced religious exploration, genital mutilation, toilet humor, and more-or-less nonstop insanity.
The first part of the movie introduces a buffoonish Christ-figure, known only as “The thief,” while lambasting the Catholic Church as it shows things like: soldiers making a cast of the thief so they can turn a profit by selling hundreds of crucifixes, the Pope sleeping in bed with a crucifix, and nuns dressed as prostitutes.
The rest of the movie can’t be summed up easily because it relies so heavily on stream-of-consciousness imagery, and because there isn’t exactly much of a plot arc; but I’ll describe the following scene so you can get a feel for what kind of craziness “The Holy Mountain” is all about: Eventually the thief ascends an enormous tower, via giant fishhook and rope, where he crawls through a huge tube and enters a giant rainbow colored room where he finds “The Alchemist,” played by Jodorowsky himself, sitting in between two goats. They have a ridiculous fight where the alchemist beats the thief into submission using some kind of extremely awkward form of martial arts. Then the alchemist and a naked woman give the thief a bath in a pool with a baby hippo, which closes with an extended shot of the thief getting his butt-hole scrubbed clean with a sponge. The alchemist has the thief shit in a pot and they cook his turd while the thief has to sit in a glass dome and breath the fumes in, as the shit eventually turns into gold.
From here on out the movie is almost indescribable because it becomes even more strange and less coherent; but basically the thief/Christ-figure ascends a “holy mountain” with a group of sages in search for enlightenment.
On one hand this movie is really preachy and pretentious, but on the other hand it is impossible to take seriously because it is filled with so many silly images and toilet humor (for instance two women fondle a giant penis ice sculpture, and later two cows have sex while a women gets a face full of white glop). The movie is so ridiculous that I wondered if all the pretentious religious themes sandwiched between dick-jokes was all just a parody of art house films in general. However, according to Wikipedia ( Hyperlink: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Holy_Mountain_%281973_film%29 ) Jodorowsky was influenced by LCD and at one point of the movie had the actors take hallucinogenic mushrooms. None of this is exactly a shock, and with that in mind, I would guess that this movie was meant to be taken seriously.
If I have any complaints about this movie it would mostly be how incredibly sacrilegious it is towards Catholicism in the opening scenes of the movie, but then presents an extremely positive view of a mish-mash of various other religions/philosophies including: Kabbalah, Rosicrucianism, Taoism, Alchemy, and Tarot. The way Jodorowsky spits on Catholicism and then presents religions he seems to find more “enlightened” reminds me a lot of something I read by religious scholar Elaine Pagels (Hyperlink: http://www.amazon.com/Origin-Satan-Christians-Demonized-Heretics/dp/0679... ). Pagels said that newer religions usually demonize older religions as a way to establish their own legitimacy. For example she argued that Judaism co-opted the image of the serpent from an older Babylonian religion (Zoroastrianism if I remember correctly), and in doing so they demonized what the Babylonians knew as the goddess “Tiamat,” as a way to help establish Judaism as a legitimate religion. This isn’t exactly a logical argument, but it is more of just a way to bully people into believing what you want them to, while at the same time cannibalizing an older competing belief.
However overall I thought this was a really fun exploitation movie with a lot of very impressive imagery. Plus it felt well paced, which is pretty impressive for a two-hour movie where most of the scenes and images seem completely unrelated. Beyond all that I think the movie has even more value as a genuine time-capsule of it’s era. Being released in 1973, toward the tail-end of the Vietnam War, “The Holy Mountain” crystallizes a lot of the attitudes and elements of the era including: anger about the war and militarism in general, dissolution and rejection of traditional institutions like the Church and government, and exploration of hallucinogenic drugs and Eastern religions.
I can understand if someone might be turned off by the sacrilegious nature of the movie or the nearly incoherent story, but if any of this sounds interesting to you, or if you think that you’d enjoy a movie where the characters shout things like: "Rub your clitoris against the mountain!” or “Your sacrifice completes my sanctuary of 1,000 testicles,” I think “The Holy Mountain” might be right up your alley.