The Holy Mountain is one of the most originals films by Jodorowsky, given its peculiar narrative structure: it is an episodic narration that describes a collective quest by nine characters. In other words, no hero or lonesome protagonist can be identified, but the narration focuses on a group of characters set out to find something equally as complex: immortality.
Jodorowsky was aware that he was going against the aristotelic structure, which is the most frequently used in Hollywood’s movies: “All the movies we know are structured in the same way. They start with a first act, which introduces a hero that does not want to enter the action, but is pushed into it by something that happens. Then, there is a second act, where enemies and allies perform their actions. Finally, there is a third act where all of this gets resolved. In “The Holy Mountain,” I did away with this. I did not want to tell a story. I wanted to present characters and express myself in a different way.”
In the first scenes of the movie, we follow the story of a thief, a corrupt man given to vice that walks around a violent world until his encounter with the Alchemist leads his personality to undergo a radical transformation.
In the second part of the movie, the Alchemist introduces to the Thief seven other characters, powerful millionaire men and women that will accompany him on his initiatic journey.
Finally, in the third part of the movie, all nine characters set off in search of the summit of the Holy Mountain, where, as the Alchemist promised them, they will be able to achieve, after overcoming the hurdles along the way, the long desired immortality.
But it is in the very last scene where we find the most transgressive and transcending moment of the movie: the Alchemist, played by Jodorowsky himself, turns his eyes to the lens, and – no longer playing his role, but acting as a director – orders the camera to go back (“Zoom back, camera!”.) This shoot reveals the technical crew behind the cameras, with their microphones and reflecting screens. It brings down the representational convention that had been sustained up to that moment, and denounces the cinematographic artifice.
This ending tells us about the impossibility of finding an absolute and permanent truth, and proposes us instead to continue on with the search regardless of the results. This ending is again a challenge to the classical narrative structures. There is no hero here that, after a challenging search, triumphs over evil, finds the treasure, or joins his beloved princess. Here the search is so important that becomes an object by itself.
In the words of the director: “Another mountain, and another, and another. And there is no need to stop, because the world is permanent impermanence. So we have to go towards impermanence with a lot of perseverance, dedication, and faith. Illumination is a continuous process.”