Nothing Bad Can Happen (2013)

Nothing Bad Can Happen 2013_ Tore tanzt_Benno_ Tore

Nothing bad can happen to him who carries the shield of faith.

Tore tanzt_Nothing Bad Can Happen 2013 poster
Interesting poster

I have a soft spot for titles that form complete sentences. A strong title very often provides a memorable plot and powerful characters. Such is the case with the German movie “Nothing Bad Can Happen” (original title “Tore tanzt”) from 2013.

The plot bears similarities to many recent torture movies that told stories of domestic abuse and horrible deeds done behind closed doors. Yet it is strikingly different because of its protagonist, Tore, who is a Jesus freak, a punk, and a modern saint. Or is he?

To quote IMDb plot summary (written by the movie first-time director Katrin Gebbe herself!):

The young Tore seeks in Hamburg a new life among the religious group called The Jesus Freaks. When he by accident meets a family and helps them to repair their car, he believes that a heavenly wonder has helped him. He starts a friendship with the father of the family, Benno. Soon he moves in with them at their garden plot, not knowing what cruelty is there to come.

I admit I watched the movie just because of its title, so I didn’t know even that. And I would add EXTREME cruelty in this description.

I like movies that break stereotypes. Here seeing two young men in punk clothes, smiling and talking about their faith in Jesus, calling themselves Jesus freaks, I immediately assumed them to be the bad ones. “Yep, we know such young believers. Soon they will kill someone with these fanatic smiles on their faces,” I thought.

Nothing Bad Can Happen 2013_ Tore_Benno devil horns_Tore tanzt
Ultimate good and ultimate evil. I detect a parable here.

No, the most crystal clear character in the whole movie is Tore, one of the youngsters. Angelic, blue-eyed, blonde-haired and slim, he has a pure soul and honest intentions.

It’s rare to see such strong, pure faith depicted in modern cinema. The movie proves why. As the punk preacher (Jesus Freaks commune consists only of such individuals) reminds the audience in the beginning, Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, but it is very difficult to do so. The problem is that Tore is really capable of doing so. He strongly believes that because of this and his faith “nothing bad can happen” to him. This sounds fascinating to me. What if one person was truly capable of always turning the other cheek? Would we call it masochism or martyrdom? In today’s culture which perceives one’s well-being as an important value, Tore appears to be an imbecile. Who, in the age of “healthy egoism” and assertiveness, would willingly suffer if one can avoid it?

Here we have an extremely passive young male who consciously chooses this strategy because of his religious belief. This movie can be challenging because being so passive is usually connected to female characters. And even young female characters nowadays are meant to be assertive and able to fight for their own.

Nothing Bad Can Happen 2013_ Tore tanzt_Benno_ Tore
Tore (Julius Feldmeier) and Benno (Sascha Alexander Gersak)

Without my faith I would have nothing.

Benno, the force of total nihilism and evil in the movie, at once recognizes Tore’s good nature. We are surprised that he allows him so readily into his life, providing him food and place to sleep. But soon we realize that Benno is like the proverbial devil, he cannot exist without his opposition.

The movie features extreme humiliation, violence, and harm, both physical and psychological. Tore’s goodness brings to life the worst human instincts possible – extreme sadism and perversion. He provokes the seemingly good citizens to become beasts. Step by step, they treat him like a slave, an animal, and then an object that can be destroyed.

I’m abused and yet not killed. I’m dying, and yet I live on. I own nothing, and yet possess everything.

At the same time, the movie is not a horror, all events are shown in a realistic, down-to-earth way. Even the religious vision of the protagonist gets a logical explanation, being only a sickly hallucination.

An interesting character is Benno’s wife who at first appears to be a victim who allows abuse of others because she is terrorized herself. While her passiveness wouldn’t make her less guilty, but would be partly justified, later we find out that at times she enjoys sadistic tortures just as much as Benno. She is fully aware of what’s happening and decides to either ignore or take part in it when she pleases. She is as evil as Benno, but even more hypocritical. The actress playing her, Annika Kuhl, portrays her nature in a very subtle way.

Nothing Bad Can Happen 2013_ Benno_ Astrid
Benno and Astrid, the monstrous couple

Yet the power of this movie lies in the fact that I never felt even for one moment that Tore deserves any of it, that he somehow provoked his abusers with his passive behavior. It would be very easy to shrug the movie with a simple “if you are weak, the strong will use you” Darwinist statement. But the movie makes me believe that Tore has good intentions and pure heart. He decides to turn the other cheek not because he enjoys suffering or is afraid, but because his faith is the only thing that keeps him alive. He prays desperately “I understand that Benno is the test for me, ” but he does not enjoy his victim status. The only time he stands up against Benno it is not for himself but for Sanny, Benno’s daughter and the only person Tore has romantic feelings for.

othing Bad Can Happen 2013_rain_ Tore and Sanny

The bond between Sanny and Tore is a truly beautiful concept in this extremely dark world. At first hostile towards “a religious freak,” the girl learns to trust him and rely on him. Their time spent together shows child-like, joyful possibilities. Sanny always tries to protect Tore, even though he realizes that he should be the one to defend her. Their inability to ultimately help each other constitutes a tragedy. Rarely a relationship of unhappy lovers (here Platonic) moved me so much.

For me it’s a Southern Gothic movie that was made in Germany – this shows that some genres exceed the boundaries that literary theory and history invented. The whole plot could be Flannery O’Connor’s story. In fact, I’m almost certain that the creators of this film had to know some of her works. Or at least William Faulkner.

I think that this movie can be very easily misunderstood if one is not familiar with Southern Gothic aesthetic. Certain ideological bias, delusional and strong-minded characters are the core of this genre. Therefore even if the plot seems realistic and the characters’ behavior doesn’t, it all fits perfectly well into the convention.

I enjoyed the movie very much (even though it’s a heartbreaking stuff!), but as someone who ate her teeth on Flannery O’Connor and Truman Capote, I can be a bit biased.

Parker's Back Flannery O'Connor
Parker’s tatoo from Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Parker’s Back”
Nothing Bad Can Happen 2013_ Tore_tattoo_ Teach Me Lord_Tore tanzt
Tore’s tattoo: “Teach Me Lord”

The film ends with an optimistic note that not everything is lost and there is still hope. Just like the three parts of the movie: “Faith”, “Love” and “Faith” state. The order is not accidental. There is always hope even in the darkest place, however cliché it sounds. But why do the good ones have to suffer?

The very end is extremely powerful, no matter how we interpret it. Every viewer interprets himself who won the battle.

I think that this movie can be interesting to both believers and non-believers, not because it presents a standard view at faith, but because it challenges it.

But the very last image destroyed me completely. A simple caption: “Based on true events.”

So much for unrealistic characters.

The movie was criticized by many when it first appeared at Cannes. I’m not surprised, but I’m not following the crowd in this instance. At the same time it won a few awards for its young director, Katrin Gebbe. It’s a brave work, better than most Southern Gothic movies (even if Gebbe didn’t try to make one). As a lover of grotesque, I was delighted. But this time the grotesque is not funny. This is the very dark side of grotesque, similarly important, but harder to swallow.

***

I’m back with new theme design. How do you like it? I have some fresh ideas. More posts soon!

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2014 summary (with lots of pictures)

Grotesque Ground summary 2014

Calm down, it’s not another summary of what happened in 2014. I want to share with you a few lists of movies and books that I found important in the previous year. I don’t care about keeping up-to-date with new releases, so it’s going to be the summary of what I actually saw and read in 2014. I think it’s not so much about creating such a post, but about revealing your interests and taste in the process.

I never used so many pictures on this blog. And there are two embedded videos. Let the visual craziness begin!

I also decided to keep things chronologically unless you see numbers. The numbers matter then.

Honorable mentions

Movie that surprised me the most

  • Gösta Berlings saga (1924)
Greta Garbo Saga of Gosta Berling 1924
Stunning Greta Garbo in “Gösta Berlings saga”

I expected a boring but necessary for my movie education experience. I watched a gripping and extremely entertaining historical romance that does not stop its pace for 185 minutes. I cannot recommend it enough for every silent movie fan.

Movie that every blogger seems to rave over and I couldn’t stand

  • Frank (2014)

It totally did not appeal to my taste. It’s not grotesque, but quirky. Nothing bad with quirky, just don’t expect me to like it. Let’s leave it at that because I have only bad things to say about “Frank”.

Three masterpieces that prove Japanese movies are simply fearless

  • "Ichi the Killer' poster. Don't google this film if you cannot stand gore. The movie has plenty of guts (pun intended).
    “Ichi the Killer’ poster. Don’t google this film if you cannot stand gore. The movie has plenty of guts (pun intended).

    Hana-Bi (1997)

  • Koroshiya 1 (Ichi the Killer) (2001)
  • Tetsuo (Tetsuo, the Iron Man ) (1989)

  Movies I have to see again to fully appreciate

  • Pafekuto buru (Perfect Blue) (1997)
  • Papurika (Paprika) (2006)

If you want to know why, just listen to this great song from Paprika soundtrack and try not to go crazy in the process.

Sometimes too much awesomeness is too much to handle. By the way, Inception is said to be an imperfect copy of Paprika.

Movies I recommend

  • Teorema (1968)
  • Prestuplenie i nakazanie (Crime and Punishment) (1970)
  • The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)
  • Dreams (1990)
  • Nothing Is Private (2007)
  • Geoul sok euro (Into the Mirror) (2008)
  • Prisoners (2013)
Martin Sheen creeps up on Jodie Foster in"The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane" 1976
Martin Sheen creeps up on Jodie Foster in “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane” (1976)

 Movies that evoked mixed feelings

  • Shame (2011)
  • Interstellar (2014)

The best documentaryDune_The Emperor's Palace_ Chris Foss

  • Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013) – read my review here

 

 The best movie I watched in cinema

  • Nightcrawler (2014) – read my review here

Nightcrawler 2014 Jake Gyllenhaal

The worst movie I watched in cinema

  • Magic in the Moonlight (2014)

Movies you may be surprised I really enjoyed

john-carter-city 2012
“John Carter”. I regret nothing.
  •     Charlotte’s Web (2006)
  •     John Carter (2012)
  •     We’re the Millers (2013)

The fan favorite I agree with

  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Like I wrote on my twitter in August, as a lover of grotesque I always support talking raccoons as badass characters.

The Grand Ones

The best movies I watched in 2014

1. Les yeux sans visage (Eyes Without a Face) (1960)

2. The Holy Mountain (1973)

The Holy Mountain Alejandro Jodorowsky hat two women
“The world seems crazy to Jodorowsky and I think that he deliberately shocks to make us notice it.” (my review)

3. Peeping Tom (1960)

Peeping Tom 1960 Karlheinz Böhm kisses camera
The British masterpiece which shows ambiguous portrait of the serial killer. Karlheinz Böhm, here shown kissing the camera, gives an extremely strong performance.

4. Ichi the Killer (2001)

Ichi the Killer 2001 - Tadanobu Asano Kakihara smoke
Tadanobu Asano as Kakihara is the best psychotic antagonist in recent cinema history.

5. Stoker (2013)

Stoker 2013 Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker
Every shot in this movie is perfect . All performances are superb. Here Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker.

6. Ugetsu monogatari (Ugetsu) (1953)

Ugetsu Monogatari 1953
Beautiful fantasy about old Japan when ghosts walked among people.

7. Gösta Berlings saga (1924)

Gosta Berlings Saga 1924 Lars Hanson Greta Garbo
Lars Hanson and Greta Garbo expressing great emotions. Today’s romances and adventure movies could learn a lot from The Saga of Gosta Berling.

8. Accattone (1961)

Accattone 1961  Franco Citti
Can a movie about a pimp be beautiful and fascinating? Of course, if Pier Paolo Pasolini is directing.

9. La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty) (2013)

La grande bellezza The Great Beauty 2013 Toni Servillo
Accused of being Fellini’s copycat, I see this movie as a distinct and very interesting voice.

10. Tetsuo (1989)

Tetsuo 1989 lovers faces
This movie is insane! David Cronenberg’s fans will love it. But I don’t recommend it to unprepared viewers. A movie that deserves R rating.

Grotesque involved

Grotesque masterpieces

  • The Holy Mountain (1973) – my review here
  • The Day of the Locust (1975) – my review here

Grotesque movies I should also review

  • Tetsuo (Tetsuo, the Iron Man ) (1989)

  • Koroshiya 1 (Ichi the Killer) (2001)

  • Ubu król (King Ubu) (2003)

  • Den brysomme mannen (The Bothersome Man) (2006)

  • Papurika (Paprika) (2006)

  • La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty) (2013)

 

2014 Reading list

Grotesque favorites

  • Saki – The Best of Saki – read my review hereMiss Lonelyhearts The Day of the Locust Nathanael West cover
  • Nathanael West – Miss Lonelyhearts (1933)
  • Nathanael West – The Day of the Locust (1939)
  • Flannery O’Connor – The Violent Bear It Away (1960)
  • Thomas Pynchon – The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)

Bestsellers I recommend

  • Kathryn Stockett – The Help (2009)
  • Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl (2012)

The most entertaining book

  • Boris Akunin – The Winter Queen (1998)The Winter Queen Azazel Boris Akunin cover

A skillfully crafted mystery novel that successfully imitates 19th-century style of writing. Very funny at times. And full of surprises. I think I will read more of Erast Fandorin’s adventures soon.

The best fantasy series

  • Michael J. Sullivan – The Riyria Revelations (2008-2012)

I just ended “The Emerald Storm” (which is book #4 out of 6). I hope for even more action and drama in two last books. And if I won’t have enough of the adventures of two rogues who always end up in troubles (and political intrigues), the author also wrote two prequels.

Riyria Revelations covers Michael J. Sullivan
Six books of sheer fun in three volumes.

The best gritty books

  • Robert Penn Warren – All the King’s Men (1946)
  • Hubert Selby, Jr. – Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964)
  • James Dickey – Deliverance (1970)

The best academic read

  • Noël Carroll – The Philosophy of Horror, or Paradoxes of the Heart (1990)

I think it deserves a post on its own.

 Ultimate choice

The Crying of Lot 49 Thomas Pynchon cover
So much going on in such a short book. I had read it before and will read it again in the future.

The best books I read in 2014

  1. Thomas Pynchon – The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)
  2. Saul Bellow – Herzog (1964)
  3. E. L. Doctorow – Ragtime (1975)
  4. Hubert Selby, Jr. – Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964)
  5. Flannery O’Connor – The Violent Bear It Away (1960)

These five books are so good, no short descriptions could give them justice. They all happen to be classics now, so I think you will find them in your local library. All are worth your time. I own three copies out of five at this point.

Herzog_Ragtime_Last Exit to Brooklyn_The Violent Bear It Away_covers

You may notice the discrepancy between movies and books in this post. What can I say? I read 60 books in 2014, but many of these are simply OK, neither so good I can recommend them, nor so bad I should warn you against them.

 ***

I drew a few conclusions after writing this post.

  1. I seem to cherish great movies with serial killers/murderers/troubled people as main characters.
  2. I breathe the 1960s air. At least in terms of books.
  3. I respect Japanese cinema immensely.
  4. Only TWO movies on my best list are in English. And Peeping Tom is British while Stoker is UK/US coproduction. American cinema, although I watch it most frequently, failed to impress me in 2014. Even Nightcrawler couldn’t be included on the list, as I regard each film on the list a better one than Jake-Gyllenhaal-fest.
  5. All the grotesque movies I could review are not in English. *sigh* As I get the most readers from the United States, it seems I try to sabotage my own efforts. :D On the other hand, I cannot hide the fact that I consider cinema as international art and I watch movies from all around the world. And to be honest, the blog stats are unpredictable. Most popular post on my blog is The Holy Mountain one (this one).
  6. This year Pier Paolo Pasolini became one of my favorite directors (in this post you could spot Accattone and Teorema).
  7. I read way too many fantasy books that I didn’t include here.
  8. Weirdness and great script/plot are not incompatible.

eyes_without_a_face_franju

 I hope you liked this lengthy sum-up of my very subjective pursues. I certainly enjoyed creating all these categories. If you have similar posts or want to share your favorites/least favorites picks of 2014, don’t hesitate to post them in the comments below. I would love to hear about them!

“The Day of the Locust” (1975)

“The Day of the Locust” is an edgy take on lust, greed, fame and Hollywood. It takes place in the 1930s, but remains relevant today. It is also a successful adaptation of an accomplished novel of the same name by Nathanel West (named one of TIME’s “the 100 best English-language novels 1923-2005”).

Poster_of_the_movie_The_Day_of_the_LocustI cannot say I remember many “grand” novels who were turned into amazing movies. It is an even rarer case when I like a movie more than the famous original (and I read the book first). This is such an exception.

Because of the overabundance of masterpieces in 1970s American cinema, some great movies are a bit forgotten nowadays. Let’s look at the movies of 1975. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Jaws. Dog Day Afternoon. Three Days of the Condor. Nashville. 1975. Just one year. Can you wonder why “The Day of the Locust” could feel a bit outdated compared to those movies, taking place in 1930s?

Why West’s novel should matter today?

“By paying homage to the Hollywood machine and its invisible workers, West was able to illuminate the film business from the bottom up. There is not much beauty to be found in what he called the ‘Dream Dump,’ or in his chronicle of American life in the Thirties. It’s all violence all the time, with sickening scenes that still retain the power to shock. W.H. Auden would call West’s people ‘cripples.’ They weren’t cripples to West, who lovingly described his excitable characters as ‘screwballs and screwboxes.’ His original title for the book, The Cheated, accurately reflected their frustration”

(read the whole review by Marion Meade here).

The novel’s protagonist is a young man named Tod Hackett. I think many young people could identify with him: a true artist compromising himself for money. A Yale graduate could starve as a painter or earn some money as a designer in Hollywood. He chooses the second option, but remains aware of vanities and emotional void that surrounds him. Todd is an outsider and an artist which gives him a unique perspective to see what’s going on. He becomes infatuated with Faye Greener, an attractive starlet without talent but with high aspirations.

rathaus in munich gargoyle
I just felt like contrasting these two images. Here we see the gargoyle in Munich.
scream mirror day of the locust 1975
And here the desperation recreated by Tod when observing himself. Art and commerce meet in this shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many grotesque figures appear in the book, the most important ones are: Homer Simpson, a lonely and inhibited businessman exploited by Faye; Faye’s father, an ex-vaudeville clown who sells homemade silver polish door-to-door; and Adore Loomis, a cruel young boy whose mother has been stylizing as a child star.

Jackie Earle Haley as Adore day of the locust
Jackie Earle Haley plays Adore. He will be known much later for his roles as Rorschach and Freddy Krueger. This is what dressing as Shirley Temple does to a young actor.

The movie was directed by John Schlesinger (“Midnight Cowboy,” “Marathon Man,” “Billy Liar”) and follows the book closely. It is actually extremely faithful towards the book. Paradoxically, it is to its disadvantage at times. Although the novel is very short, it drags for its first one third. As the movie does not skip anything, it repeats this mistake. I feel that at least a few episodes could be cut for the sake of brevity (total 144 minutes is too long in this case).

But the acting is without a miss. Karen Black and Donald Sutherland are perfect in their roles. Jackie Earle Haley is amazingly creepy in his early role as Adore. But it is William Atherton’s acting that impressed me most, as you can just read Tod’s thoughts on his face (instead of hearing voice-over). You see that he realizes how phony Faye is but he falls for her anyway. And it’s acted with just a slight change in his facial expression. It’s a shame I never paid any attention to William Atherton before.

Tod Hackett  coffin mirror day of the locust 1975
Tod Hackett (William Atherton) getting ready. There is no such coffin-like mirror in the book, but it suits Tod’s obsession with self-destruction.

1970s. You have no CGI, but stunts, make-up, fake blood, real fire. And real crowd, not multiplied individuals which were created at movie studios. Very risky movie to fund as it looks very expensive. It is a shame no such risk would probably be taken today.

The movie depicts people pursuing dreams and fantasies. They fool themselves and ignore reality. Everything in Hollywood is attractive for the crowd. A place of somebody’s suicide is a tourist attraction. A funeral house is a great hideout when waiting for Clark Gable to arrive at the cemetery.
It’s far more interesting to see members of this crowd than attractions they are waiting for. In any other job they could be happy if they could pay their rent, etc. But everybody desires something more. Their need of power, success, money and sex is killing them.

It is not a film about some wannabe actress/actual prostitute and all the fools that want to sleep with her. Nor it is a movie about failed actors, performers and filmmakers. It rips the covers of human beings and shows what hides underneath: human desires, animalistic forces, the utter need to either copulate or destroy. It is not only a movie about Hollywood but about the mob mentality and the repressed individuality.

The last moments will reward you for your patience with some unforgettable images.

Just to give you the glimpse of what a ride the ending is I give you two pictures.

people at bus stop day of the locust 1975
People at a bus stop during the day, in the middle of the movie.
mob people at bus stop day of the locust 1975
People at a bus stop during the night riot at the end of the movie.

I cannot remember reading so many comments/reviews/etc. such as “this movie was the scariest movie I’ve ever seen” about a non-horror movie before. Consider yourself warned. And invited to see this movie.

“Jeepers Creepers, where’d ya get those peepers?

Jeepers Creepers, where’d ya get those eyes?”

“The Holy Mountain” (1973)

the-holy-mountain-1973 poster Japanese styleThe movie that became a cult classic among certain people and was called a blasphemous shocker by others. If you never saw any of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s films, it is likely that you never experienced something like this before.

The only director whose style comes close is the great Luis Buñuel, especially in his late movies, like “The Phantom of Liberty.” Jodorowsky tries to blend mysticism, esotericism, influences of shamanism and Buddhism together with cinema. Buñuel was famous for his connection with surrealism and his movies are full of surrealistic ideas. Both directors came from predominantly Catholic countries (Buñuel from Spain, Jodorowsky from Chile) and the criticism of this religion haunts their movies.

But even with these similarities in mind, Jodorowsky has an exceptional style which is impossible to mistake for anyone else’s.

“The Holy Mountain” has a plot, but this plot consists of so many bizarre episodes that many viewers may feel lost. But just watch it if you dare, and I promise you, there is a plot.

The first shot presents two blonde women and Jodorowsky himself (playing The Alchemist – a wise man, or a deceiver, depending on your interpretation). In a strange ceremonial manner  he washes off the women’s make-up, strips them naked, shaves their heads, and finally inclines his head, covering the women’s bald heads with the brim of his black hat. At this point we do not know what is going on. The shot is presented in an almost voyeuristic way, as if we were witnessing some sort of forbidden ritual. This feeling of being a voyeuristic spectator will disappear as the movie progresses, because we follow the protagonist who “permits us” to join the events.

The Holy Mountain_Alejandro Jodorowsky_hat_two womenThis protagonist is called The Thief in the movie, but he resembles a Jesus Christ more than anyone else. We meet him in the next scene after the opening one. The scenes do not appear to be logically connected. In the times when movie editing was still pretty traditional, “The Holy Mountain” is characterized by frequent cuts which the viewers are unprepared for. The Thief lies on the ground, unconscious, covered in dirt and his own urine. The flies cover his face like excrement. Naked children come and laugh at him. He is befriended by a footless, handless dwarf.* They go into the city and then…

(* Grotesque frequently welcomes people who would work as living exhibits in freak shows of the past. Yet this does not mean that a disabled or deformed character automatically makes a work of art grotesque. I feel this differentiation deserves the separate post in the future.)

The episodes that follow could be of picaresque nature if not for their extremity. Some are nauseating. Some violent. Many erotic. The movie breaks every taboo possible. We see full nudity, both male and female. Deviations. Violence. Castration. Animal cruelty. Mockery of religion. And lastly, outlandish grossness.

But also beauty. Composition. Order. Grandeur. Baroque style. The cinematography here is phenomenal.

The Holy Mountain - Great Toad and Chameleon Circus - chameleon AztecsThe question remains: can the movie which seems to aim for making its viewers uncomfortable or even enraged still be a work of art? For me, yes. And yes, there are some scenes that I disagree with. Still I believe in the thought-provoking art. If it wants to state something, shocking is justified.

What does this movie want to state? That’s another problem with approaching “The Holy Mountain” today. It is deemed as a cult hippie movie and was compared to the visions after taking hallucinogenic drugs. The film was produced by Beatles manager Allen Klein, because both John Lennon and George Harrison appreciated Jodorowsky’s previous film “El Topo”. (you can find more information about that here).

A movie with such exceptional background, such following, and the director who, as I already mentioned, does not hide his fascination with occultism and spirituality, can quickly be regarded as rich in imagery but poor in thought. But not “The Holy Mountain.”

Excellent website 366 Weird Movies (whole text here) has a great analysis of the movie and I will quote a fragment:

If you tore out pages from the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, The Golden Bough, and a dozen other esoteric works from the Kabbalah to Gurdijeff—throwing in a couple of sleazy pulp novels for good measure—and put them together in a giant cauldron, stirred them up and pulled out sheaves at random and asked a troupe of performance artists, carnival freaks, and hippies tripping on peyote to act them out, you might come up with a narrative something like The Holy Mountain.

Another fragment about shock value in the movie: “The director goes all-out grotesque here: the visions include animal sex, hermaphrodism, castration, ejaculation, and lactation.”

Exactly, all-out grotesque is why I’m writing about this movie.

The Holy Mountain - face covered with tarantulas
This is one of the mildest of the gross and macabre scenes.

The images contrast with each other in a seemingly mad way, yet the viewers can try to grasp the meaning behind them. And this quest for meaning will not be in vain.

The movie is full of symbols and they are not esoteric props to make the setting more attractive. In fact, I feel that without basic knowledge about The New Testament and ancient Roman gods your movie experience will be incomplete. I am familiar with Catholic imagery but had to brush up the facts about Roman mythology (Uranus? Saturn?). But when it comes to Buddhism or the history of South America, I am no expert. I could probably notice even more metaphors, had I known more about these subjects.

That being said, I think that no genre could describe this movie properly. Grotesque? Surrealism? Fantasy? Religious movie (paradoxically)? Horror? Parable? Postmodern art?

The Holy Mountain - Fon, Venus - faces on line shaftWhatever you call it, it is not the movie for everyone, as you probably have guessed already. Those who decide to watch it, will experience powerful images that are impossible to forget. And you don’t have to join (or even agree with) The Alchemist’s cult to enjoy the world that Jodorowsky creates. He at the same time embraces the hippie ideology and deliberately mocks it. He introduces both anti-religious and pro-religious messages.

There is ugliness in a primitive sculpture of crucified Christ and beauty in the eyes of the prostitute who believes in her personal savior. This modern Mary Magdalene is accompanied by a chimpanzee everywhere she walks. Beauty and the beast.

The world seems crazy to Jodorowsky and I think that he deliberately shocks to make us notice it. Some things he presents have already happened, for example the fetishization of violence and guns or extreme tourism (by that I mean tourism based on exploitation of the natives’ suffering).

Whether Jodorowsky warns us, shows us new ways or simply plays with ideas in a postmodern manner, I am sure that “The Holy Mountain” will continue to baffle next generations.

It is exceptional, a work of a highly talented individual who got a big budget to make his vision come true. I think all movie visionaries envy him this opportunity.

NEWS FLASH: Check out Alejandro Jodorowsky’s kickstarter page: http://kck.st/1yG9EWs You can help to make his new movie “Endless Poetry”! And how often can you help the legend? The kickstarter project ends on 22 March 2015.