The Holy Mountain

There is a lot to unpack about an absurdist film following a man on a psychedelic path to enlightenment.

05.12.2021

Truth be told, we’ve been known to get our inspiration from a lot of weird places, both broad and specific. Sometimes it’s a super pixelated scan of a scan of a doodle we found in an old book that was dreamt upon by a previous owner. Or sometimes it’s the texture of a rock near the site of a project that looks like a door knob but reminds us of something we saw once down an aisle at the little hardware store near our old office. Or sometimes it’s something from another realm entirely that comes along and is hard to put into words. That’s exactly what this is. It’s a 1973 Mexican surrealist fantasy cult film that lives out our greatest and wildest most over-the-top dreams. It’s Alejandro Jodoworsky’s The Holy Mountain and the set designs are incredible.

There is a lot to unpack about an absurdist film following a man on a psychedelic path to enlightenment. The plot, inspired in large part by St. John of the Cross’s 16th century writing The Ascent of Mount Carmel, winds all over the place. It is swollen with allegories, layered references to biblical stories, Latin American folklore, witchcraft, and astrology, to name a few things. The set design exceeds the plot in its absurdity and those involved in the creation of the film offer a partial insight into why that might be. It was financed in part by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and produced by the Beatles’ manager during a time when they were at their psychedelic peak. But that said, it was Jodorowsky himself who took on the role as master creator, spearheading the writing, directing, composing, costume design and set design. All that became of The Holy Mountain’s visuals can be attributed to him. It is his work that has offered us an endless stream of inspiration.

The images we’ve pulled here are indicative of the kinds of visual waves you’re hit with as you watch this film. Each scene appears to be more insane than the last. It’s easier to describe how you feel while you’re watching the film instead of attempting to describe what you’re actually watching so we’ll say in short: you sit and watch this film unsure at any point how the transition from the last scene occurred and without any clue what the next one will present. You might not know what is happening and why, but it’s beautiful. There is symbolism and meaning in each aspect of the set design if you take the time to dissect it (and you should!) but the genius of these sets is that they’re visually stunning without having to know anything about the plot or the characters. They exist as a sort of oscillating art piece, the characters moving through the sets as accents on a visual field.

We’ll let the images continue to speak for themselves just as the film does.

All images shown here are courtesy of Film Grab.