Oh dear lord.
I knew, after Fando y Lis, that I’d be getting into serious surrealism as I wandered further into Alejandro Jodorowsky’s filmography. I’d heard “symbol” and “imagery” spoken more times with reference to his films than likely I ever heard anywhere else. And…it would appear with good reason. The film was dripping with symbolism, concepts, ideas, metaphors and critiques. The use of colour was almost literally stunning–I was actually taken aback at one point. The “Conquest of Mexico” scene near the beginning…stunning. The whole film was absolutely beautiful.
There actually is a plot, for all of that:
A thief, with a resemblance to the popular image of Jesus, goes searching throughout a town for enlightenment, power, fame–whatever it is that is the goal of life. He’s not able to find it, fending off false images of himself, eventually, he rides a hook into a tall and distant tower–there he meets The Alchemist, played by Jodorowsky himself, who offers him the answer to anything and everything, through the guidance and teamwork of seven other people, each representing a planet, all powers in the world—manufacturing weapons, using sex as a commodity and so on–and he takes them through his world, which has the most bizarre, fascinating production design in the world–geometric colourful rooms, animals everywhere–as in the entire film–and teaches them to rid themselves of sense of self and material possession, shows the thief what he is and what he CAN be, and eventually takes them on a journey to The Holy Mountain–where they will find the secret to immortality.
Jodorowsky, I find, is a thoroughly charismatic individual; I find him to be so in the same way as most of the actors and actresses I’m drawn to. The rest of the cast also held my attention quite well, which brings me to the real reason I feel I can get a decent review out of such a surreal film:
Jodorowsky knows how to make a symbolic film. Obviously he’s a master of symbolism, but more to the point, he maintains pacing and editing and tone that fit with a film that is near pure symbol so that it works as an experience. The symbols make it clear, when characters, that they are symbols, and there is no pretending that they are characters, nor is their any pretense of a need for logic to the plot–nor, more importantly, a feeling that plot is unnecessary.
I quite liked the film, I must say, and I must say those last twenty seconds were quite a whopper of an ending.
Sidenote: pretty thoroughly violent and an awful lot of animal corpses present, so, be warned, if neither is something you can deal with.