The Holy Mountain

The Holy Mountain ★★★★

Alejandro Jodorowsky and his team bring rich texture and an angry satirical edge to this staggering piece of off-putting surrealism. It’s so densely packed with probably-symbolic details that it seems impossible to pick up on all of them even if you see it dozens of times — but most of them are so visceral and aesthetically staggering that the value of the viewing experience never relies on understanding them beyond their raw power. The whole movie is a mesmerizing feat of visual storytelling — with stunning cinematography capturing the gorgeously-designed sets, costumes, and props — but the first thirtyish minutes are absolutely exceptional, as the opening sequences throw us headfirst into the film’s insane world with almost zero dialogue to aid our comprehension. The later narration and quasi-exposition clarify the film’s thematic concerns, including the absurdity of our over-reliance on social conventions and our collective desensitization to violence. But these attempts to make the film slightly more digestible and message-forward undermine its prickly, perplexing atmosphere, which works best with as little explanation as possible. It’s a great piece of surreal artistry as it stands, but after one viewing, I can’t help but think that a dialogue-free cut might be as close to perfect as a movie can be.

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