The Holy Mountain at Kater Holzig

Minette Paes

If there’s one thing Berlin Film Society seems to succeed at, it’s getting their audience talking about their latest film event. Ranging from British independent cinema to psychedelic cult films, Berlin Film Society offers its audience the chance to experience an exciting range of interesting and imaginative film in different locations around the city. Their recent event was no exception, as Jack Howard and the rest of the team hosted Alejandro Jodorowsky’s controversial film, The Holy Mountain (1973) at KaterHolzig.

 For those of you who aren’t familiar with Jodorowsky, the Chilean/French filmmaker, actor and writer is renowned for causing a bit of a stir with his avant-garde films displaying surreal and provocative imagery. The Holy Mountain is no exception to the rule. You can prepare to be firmly pushed out of your comfort zone, because it’s not exactly easy viewing. A scandal when first released, Jodorowsky’s movie is an extravagant, often incoherent satire on consumerism, militarism and the exploitation of developing cultures by the West.

The film starts with a Christ-like figure, representing ‘the thief’ who wanders through bizarre scenarios filled with religious and sacrilegious imagery. He meets an alchemist (played by Jodorowsky) who introduces him to seven wealthy and powerful individuals, each representing a planet in the solar system. The characters are led by the alchemist through several death/rebirth rituals and journey to Lotus Island to gain the secret of immortality from nine immortal masters who live on a holy mountain. However, at the end, we realise the cloaked immortals are in fact dummies and Jodorowsky instructs his group (and the audience) to leave the Holy Mountain where ‘real life awaits us’.

The director’s avid interest in alchemy, the tarot, Zen Buddhism and shamanism is evident in the film, which is itself a surrealist exploration of these spiritual Western traditions. As preparation for the film, Jodorowsky apparently spent three months doing spiritual exercises guided by Oscar Ichazo of the Arica Institute (the Arica training features Zen, Sufi and yoga exercises). He was instructed by Ichazo to take LSD for the purpose of spiritual exploration, which might explain a great deal to viewers. Jodorowsky’s films have often been compared to psychedelics, and The Holy Mountain is without a doubt one extraordinary trip in itself with a crashing comedown at the end, when we realise there is in fact no ‘Holy Mountain’ at all.

KaterHolzig proved to be a fitting location for Jodorowsky’s bizarre and imaginative film. Often comparable to a hedonistic adventure playground for adults, the former Bar25 is brilliant for partying the weekend away. The film event ticket also included entry to the club afterwards (€12 for non-members and €8 for members), making it value for money.

Berlin Film Society aims to engage with its audience and create a whole new approach to experiencing film. For more information on their upcoming events including a Charlie Chaplin film screening and a delicious film experience in conjunction with the Taste Festival, see the website.