This surreal masterpiece – abundant with religious symbology and references to Christianity, Tarot, and Alchemy – takes the viewer on a mind-bending spiritual journey.
A cloaked figure takes two women dressed like Marilyn Monroe and sheds them of their societal regalia, removing their make-up, stripping them naked, and shaving their heads.
Similar to Buñuel’s slicing of the eye, Jodorowsky is making a symbolic statement to the audience, to shed themselves of their societal standards and culturally biased values. He then presents to the viewer a film that follows one man, known as the Thief (Horacio Salinas) and his mystical odyssey.
A Christ-like figure, the Thief, is found lying in a pile of mud and garbage by a little person without hands or feet. The two go into town, where the people are performing a kind of religious ceremony, carrying crucified dogs while simultaneously executing groups of people, to the entertainment of tourists.
After the people of the town make a wax cast of his body for their mass-produced sculptures resembling Christ, the Thief journeys up a mysterious red tower and meets an Alchemist (Alejandro Jodorowsky), who leads the thief on a path of enlightenment.
George Harrison, himself a big fan of Jodorowsky’s work after having seen El Topo (1970), was originally up for the role of The Thief but disagreed with the director over what he considered gratuitous nudity – particularly, the shot where his anus is bathed.
Rather than cast a stand-in, or remove the shot altogether, Jodorowsky stood his ground, prompting Harrison to drop out.
At a projected budget of US$1.5M, The Holy Mountain was to have been the most expensive Mexican film production to date. The film reportedly cost only half that amount.
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