Interview with the filmmaker, writer, psychotherapist (etc, etc) Alejandro Jodorowsky
Interview previously published in the Netherlands, Mexico (Excelsior newspaper) and Colombia (Number magazine)
Actor, playwright, film director, composer, novelist, poet, short story writer, comic book author, Zen disciple, guru, masseuse, psychotherapist, Tarotmaster: moonlighting is a description that tends to be an understatement when it comes to defining career by Alejandro Jodorowsky (1930). And the most curious thing is that this Chilean, settled for years in Paris, has been successful with practically everything he has done. Jodorowsky gave the following exclusive interview to Excelsior in the city of Rotterdam, where he attended the Latin American Film and Literature Festival as a guest of honor.
Mr. Jodorowsky, could you define your extensive artistic work as a search for yourself?
It was and is a search for myself. But it is not only about who he is, but also who he is looking for.
And do you know who you are looking for?
I have my suspicions (laughs). I’m investigating like a detective, but I haven’t arrived yet. And if I ever found out, I would do nothing more.
Do you have a preference for an artistic genre?
Perhaps the one I like the most is the novel, because socially it is the easiest; You do not depend on partners or producers. But in a way it is also the most difficult, because you are tremendously alone in front of an empty page.
You have directed several controversial films. While filming The Holy Mountain , he even had serious problems with the Mexican authorities. What happened?
They wanted to kill me. Two thousand people marched wanting my death, they compared me to the assassin Charles Manson. I had permission to film in front of the Basilica of Guadalupe, and there is a scene in the film where soldiers are seen, while a truck full of bloody dead passes by on the street. With that small image I said everything about the killings that had occurred there. To film it, you had to strip 50 men and women, and paint their blood with a brush. We did this in front of the Basilica of Guadalupe. Then we put them in the truck and filmed, but later the newspapers said that he had made a black mass in the Basilica of Guadalupe and attacked the national Virgin.
What happened next?
There began a great persecution. I filmed six months chased by the police. For example, I would go to the market, always without permission, I would set up my scene, shoot and start, before they came to ban it. So I filmed everything.
His cinematographic work has a lot of Fellini ..
Fellini has a lot of me (laughs). No, seriously, I met Fellini because he really liked Holy Blood , and he invited me to go see him when he was filming La voce de la luna. I came to a vast field where there was only one luminous sign. Fellini saw me arrive, opened his arms and said:
– Jodorowsky! –
So I opened my arms and said:
– Father! -, and we hug. But when we hugged each other a torrential rain fell and we all ran to hide. Those two words were the whole meeting with Fellini, but it was important, because when he began to die, he left in his will that I direct a comic book that he had written, called The trip to Tulum , and put me inside as a character.
One difference from Fellini’s cinema is that there is a lot of violence in his films. The blood spurts …
I just love it … I watch two Hong Kong action movies every day. I like them a lot, it is an artistic violence, exotic, without limits. People fly, it is pure magic.
But so much violence, does it make any sense?
Violence is essential for art. There is a lot of violence in the world, but people cannot attack the world itself, and so they go to the cinema and criticize the violent content of the films. They do not understand that the violence of cinema is a catharsis of world violence, and that if art is not strong, it is not art. And there is another thing: violence must not be confused with the force of the universe.
What do you mean
Give birth, die, eat, the birth of a star, all that is strong, it comes from a universal force, but it is not violence.
But stabbing, in real life or in a movie, it is.
There are many prejudices against violence. It all depends on how you look at it. Surgery is pure violence, but if a surgeon is not strong, he does not do surgery. People confuse violence with what they see on TV, but that is art, punching in a movie is almost comical.
What then is violence to you?
Lady Di’s death is violent, especially since it illustrates the deterioration of our time. Sanctifying a vulgar woman is violent, and so is the Gulf War, environmental pollution …
But going back to the cinema, there are many films in which violence is presented almost in a crazy way.
There are sick movies, but for example Mad dogs and Once upon a time in China are great works of art. The public has to be an artist too. If art cannot be violent, we would eliminate all life! Picasso, with his Guernica, El Greco, everything would be left out. We would end up as priests …
The Bible is also not without violence.
Indeed, we would end up as castrated priests, we would do nothing. I am really tired of so much hypocrisy. Eating a Big Mac or a chicken is far more violent than the movie Casino de Scorsese. In the world there is violence everywhere, and the cinema denounces it! Cinema is an angelic art.
One of his latest novels, Where a bird sings best , which has been edited in Spain by Seix Barral, is the saga of his own Jewish family, from the Sephardic period in Spain, until the beginning of the 20th century. Why did you write it?
The main objective was to bring my family’s story to myth. It was a cure for me, looking for values and problems in the family tree. It helped me to get a different point of view.
But you yourself, at 23, cut down the tree, burned all your family photos, and left your home country.
Yes, that’s why I wanted to get the family back. I cut down the tree and it did me no good. In each family tree there is everything, miseries, problems, charms, but it serves to better understand himself. So you have to take care of it and get it back.
In the novel there are lions that speak Hebrew, and white butterflies come out of his grandfather’s semen, where is the border between reality and fiction?
Didn’t you think it was great? It is a reality mixed with fiction, but all that is my reality. My lies are my truths, your lies are your truths.
And the episode in which your uncle, during a flood, climbs into a wooden closet to save himself, and sinks under the weight of the volumes of the Talmud?
It really happened. He climbed into the closet and sank. There is a certain curse on my family.
Do the characters, some of them very striking, such as Grandma Teresa, correspond to those in your family tree?
Everything coincides. I was lucky to go very far, until the Sephardic period. My father lives, he is 92 years old, he gave me a lot of information about my family. And besides, you can always talk to Mormons, they have the world’s largest database.
Can you consider the novel as a tribute to your family?
A tribute … There are whores, communists, thieves, it is not typical of a tribute. It is more the mythical exaltation of a family portrait.
One interpretation could be that man without a country or religion should use his family tree.
Yes, without that there is nothing. The only homeland of a nomad is her shoes. That is precisely why my grandfather, who had nothing else, became a shoemaker.
You have many ‘followers’, who define you as a ‘gifted’. Do you consider yourself that way?
But how do you want me to speak well of myself?
Modesty aside, if you look at it from a distance, what do you think?
Well, then I must say that in a way I would be gifted, since I do much more than most human beings. I am currently working on 20 books at once: novels, comics, therapy books, film scripts, I do Zen, I read the Tarot. In that aspect, I would say that I am different.
Do you ever sleep
Six or seven hours a day, and I have many dreams. But I do even more things, I have a massage school, a psychoanalysis school, I have children, and I start a new relationship (laughs).
Why such frenetic activity?
The fruit of all that is that now I love myself a little. It has cost me a lot, but I already love myself a little bit.
What do your therapies consist of?
I do everything. In Paris, every Wednesday at 9:00 p.m., I give a group consultation, free of charge, in a café. About thirty people come, I read the Tarot and we looked at the family tree. In addition I do ‘psychomagia’, I have written a book with the same title, which is well known in Italy. I was recently at a congress of psychiatrists in Bilbao, and I cured in 10 days an autistic person they had brought.
In just ten days?
Yes, I did everything. I gave him a list with words he did not know, and told him to write them on the skin of his body with paint. Then I moved with my body against his, I had spots of paint on my clothes, and in the end I put my fingers in his palate and brought out the sadness.
Just like that?
The result was impressive. I had 170 psychiatrists as witnesses.
In the 1970s you were already considered a ‘guru’. Even John Lennon came to you.
I don’t feel like a guru, but for some reason I’ve always been considered that way.
What is your secret?
I discovered loving humanity and getting a strange feeling: content with what the other has. Since then, all my work has been dedicated to helping humanity, not change it, but help it to start changing.
What does this work consist of?
Any activity should be deep, including having coffee with someone. There are three types of people: the simplest speak only of themselves, the intermediate speak also of current subjects, such as Lady Di, and the third talk about profound matters. I try to take people to an even deeper level.
As it does?
There are some fundamental questions. Who you are? Or are you what others want? How do you love What do you want? What do you need? The synthesis of all this is: do you know how to live? The answer doesn’t matter too much, what matters is looking for the answer. Of course I don’t sit at a table and say – Who are you? I do it in a more subtle way. Anyway, I try to get people to start changing themselves.
The idea that we cannot change anyone but ourselves was also expressed by the Indian thinker Krishnamurti.
It has something in common. I met him, he seemed like a free, honest man. But when you go deeper into his ideas, it turns out that there is little hope. It is a bit frustrating, self-denying, as they also do in Buddhism. Many of those who say there is no ‘I’ begin to insult the ego, but the ego is a divine gift. We are a unique consciousness and we must take care of it.
With a view to what is after death?
There is another dimension, the ego is the contribution to the divine dimension. I believe that in the coming centuries we will develop much more science and our way of life. Perhaps we will someday reach that divine level.