‘The Holy Mountain’ (1973)
I am very interested in the work of Jodorowsky, and find his films beautiful and disturbing. The way he employs a sense of surrealism in his films makes the viewer somewhat alienated from their own sense of reality – yet the parallels become apparent as the viewer reads the visual clues, and begins to understand the metaphors with in his work.
I am particularly interested in his film ‘The Holy Mountain’. In this work, a young man with the appearance of Jesus, meets The Alchemist, and seven other planetary rulers, who join a quest to find immortality through a quest to the Holy Mountain.
The aesthetic of the film is brightly coloured, lush and hypnotic. The colours and settings within the alchemist workshop are fantastical and beautiful, and produce a space entirely different from that of one that anyone is able to recall. There is no hint of a possible reality – it is purely surreal and strange. This places the viewer within a sense of abstraction, reflecting a sense of displacement into their own physical space, as they examine the colours and processes of their own set-dressed lives. I am also interested in how throughout the film this aesthetic interacts with the horrific and abject setting at the start of the film. The initial character is met with violence on a busy street, full of prostitutes and criminals, who attempt to exploit the main character, as he exploits and thieves from them. This more real, outside and literal setting makes the strange calmness of the Alchemist’s studio even more unusual, as it is situated within a space of violence, yet exerts a sense of self-control, as the characters strive to find a complete and renewed self. In my own work, I want explore different settings within the same film, in order to create a strange discomfort for the viewer, never quite sure if they are situated within the realm of safety or violence.
One of the most inspiring scenes for me is when the Alchemist introduces the seven planetary rulers, and their lives, as they each work at factories to produce different items related to the traits of their planets. The way their lives and careers are presented one by one, in order fully explores the characters that avoids the usual establishment through conversation or subtle forms of speech with others, but rather directly tells the viewer of their lives, hopes, wants and needs. The viewer becomes privy to their business in a confrontational way – there is no sense of secret, but rather all characters reveal themselves and their innermost desires. In addition, the way that Jodorowsky introduces the characters, in the same way, through similar compositions and introductions, presents a sense of repetition, as their lives are remarkably similar, yet wholly different. They have the same ultimate goal – to go the Holy Mountain, and this connects them, as well as the formal use of similar compositions, as one entity, operating over different bodies to end up at the same goal. This relates to themes of the group mind, that I am exploring, and I will take inspiration from the way that Jodorowsky explores composition and similar formal elements to present that characters as one and the same.
Perhaps the most exciting an unexpected part of the film, is when The Alchemist breaks the fourth wall, allowing the cameras and staff of the film-making process to be seen, and encourages the viewer not to strive for the Holy Mountain, but rather to interact with their own reality, separate from the lush, yet violent surreal reality Jodorowsky has created within the realm of the screen. He shouts, “Real life awaits us.” This instructs the viewer to look into their own realms of disbelief, greed and distrust, and not to want for surreal and unachievable things, but rather to interact with the reality that presents itself to us. I am interested in the way that he has constructed an alternative reality in detail, through set design, make up and character formation, and then disowned it in favour of a perceived reality, which is just as made up by the viewer’s perceptions of themselves, as Jodorowsky’s is made up with outlandish intentions. In my own work, I would like explore this oscillation of versions of reality, and the viewer’s perceptions of reality through using tools such as breaking the fourth wall.