Jack McCoy’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Alchemist will strip you apart. He will put you together, but he will take everything you know and tear it apart. Your new self afterwards will never be the same. In the real world, an alchemist is one who transmutes a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value. Alejandro Jodorowsky plays the Alchemist. It’s not hard to believe the writer/director/mystic’s end goal with The Holy Mountain is to tear apart the mere mortals in the audience with the abundance of sight and sound, only for them to ascend as greater beings. Whether or not he has been successful is up for debate, but it’s hard to think of another film that makes as valiant of an effort.
The idea of rebirth through destroying all one once knew is the thesis of the film, stated at the beginning, and restated at the end. The beginning shows the Alchemist stripping two women of all the earthly possessions on their body (i.e. fake nails, ring, their hair, which is stylized in the the traditional ’70s manner for women, clothing, etc.) until they are completely nude and have nothing. They have literally been stripped apart. The amazing thing is that they lean their bald heads to each other, seemingly in bliss, as the Alchemist leans his head over them, his long rimmed hat covering them. They are protected.
The viewers then see a flurry of seemingly abstract images. An eyeball, completely naked, symbolizing the All-Seeing Eye. A miniature tomb for a pharaoh. A newspaper clipping on the side of the casket says something about “Cleopatra”. An eye is seen next to it. Another image of an eye made out of circles and fur. A book cover with hand with a marble on it, symbolizing an eye. Might be a reference to Norse mythology with Odin sacrificing his eye so he can see (seriously) into the future. That book cover opens, revealing a key, indicating the key to wisdom is through sacrifice. Fake bodies are next scene, with a fake rat in between them. A fake hand holds onto a hollow body, with wings of butterflies within. A new image of a snake, Lucifer, on top of eyeballs. These eyeballs do not have pupils. Lining the snake’s hole there are eyes with pupils with rays coming out of them, representing God and his eye. As we pan up, the All Seeing Eye is seen within a dragon. And the sequence is done. This all happens within three and a half minutes, and it overwhelms the viewer with images hard to comprehend in such rapid succession, but shows a brief story of two woman giving up everything to finally see.