When I heard for the first time about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unorthodox therapy approach called ‘Psychomagic’, I simply regarded it as a merely interesting artistic element to mention in my reviews on his films. According to Jodorowsky himself, Psychomagic, which is a sort of alternative to psychoanalysis, can heal personal pain and trauma via performing symbolic acts, and you can clearly see his deep belief in Psychomagic from many keys moments of his several unforgettable cult films such as “Santa Sangre” (1989), whose poignant emotional climax has its deeply troubled hero liberated from the presence of his domineering mother via a classic case of Psychomagic therapy.
Jodorowsky’s documentary film “Psychomagic, A Healing Art” shows us how he has applied his philosophies of Psychomagic to real life, and that is surely interesting to watch to say the least, but I also cannot help but regard a number of cases presented in the documentary with a certain degree of skepticism. While those supposedly therapeutic moments in the documentary amused and intrigued me during my viewing, my skepticism on Psychomagic kept popping up throughout the documentary mainly because Jodorowsky keeps emphasizing on the positive effects of Psychomagic without any counterpoint, and he also goes a bit too far with that around the end of the documentary in my humble opinion.
After the brief introduction on Psychomagic by Jodorowsky himself, the documentary presents to us a number of different cases of success from his Psychomagic therapy. In case of one guy, he is clearly in the need of being free from his painful childhood memories of abuses from his own father, and his emotional confession on his unhappy past is followed by the scene where he lets Jodorowsky and his assistants bury himself in the ground. Once the guy is buried in the ground almost completely, Jodorowsky and his assistants cover the burial spot with lots of animal meat and organs, and we soon see a flock of vultures flying down from the sky to devour these bloody stuffs.
Once this ritual, which is a symbolic act for the death of the guy’s former self, is over, Jodorowsky has the guy naked and then drenched in milk for making the guy feel like, well, born again, and everything is over with a small act for saying goodbye to the hurtful memories of the guy’s abusive father. Some time later, the guy talks about how much he has felt better since that, and it does look like his Psychomagic therapy works as well as he and Jodorowsky hoped.
In a part featuring one problematic couple, both of them talk a lot about their inability to love well each other despite their mutual care and affection toward each other, and then we see them attempting to go through a series of acts for forming a new connection between them. Once they come to realize that they may have to end their relationship for each other’s benefit, they go through an act which seems to be inspired by one certain moment in Jodorowsky’s “Tusk” (1980), and what follows next is probably one of the most gentle moments of separation I have ever seen from movies and documentaries.
In case of a female cellist, she enthusiastically talks about how Jodorowsky’s viewpoint on menstruation helped her overcome an artistic obstacle of hers. Inspired by how Jodorowsky has some of his female patients express themselves via the blood from their menstruation (This is not a joke, I assure you), this woman applied her own menstruation blood to her cello, and she claims this symbolic act helped her subsequent performances a lot.
The most poignant case in the documentary probably comes from a 47-year-old man who has frequently suffered stutter. Once he locates a personal pain responsible for his stutter via his private session with Jodorowsky, the man subsequently subjects himself into a series of bold acts prescribed to him by Jodorowsky, and it is oddly touching to see him smoothly speaking without any inhibition despite being almost naked in public spaces.
However, I still regard this and other cases presented in the documentary with reasonable doubt. In case of one Australian dude who has been very angry about his family, Jodorowsky simply has him smash three big pumpkins respectively representing his family members, and we later see him sending some pieces of smashed pumpkin to his family via express mail. This looks quite silly to me, and I am not even so sure about whether this really works for this dude, because it is more or less than sticking pins into a voodoo doll.
It is understandable that Jodorowsky does not provide any opposite viewpoints on Psychomagic, but one scene later in the documentary suggests that Psychomagic can even cure cancer, and you may find yourself rolling your eyes during this distracting moment. A woman claims that she recovered from her cancer after receiving, uh, the positive group energy she received from many audiences in the middle of Jodorowsky’s public lecture on Psychomagic, and Jodorowsky also seems to believe that.
I still have lingering reservation on whether I should recommend it to you despite being a big fan of many of Jodorowky’s works, but “Psychomagic, A Healing Art” will surely engage you if you enjoy his works. Although I recently came to admire him less than before due to his very insensitive claim on a certain key scene in “El Topo” (1970) in the past, the documentary shows that he is still one of the most interesting filmmakers in our time, and I hope he will keep going on during his remaining years.