People often look back to their past for clues about their future.
But for Chilean cult filmmaker, author, comic book creator and spiritual guru Alejandro Jodorowsky — who published an English translation of his novel "Albina and the Dog-Men" with Restless Books this week, and will premiere his new movie "Endless Poetry" at the Cannes Film Festival — the past can predestine you to repeat the mistakes of your parents.
Jodorowsky spoke to NBC News Latino and described family trees as having the power to trap people and invent a false sense of destiny that drives man to recreate their pasts.
"We do what they did," said Jodorowsky, referring to our parents. "We do what they did to us." And he uses experiences from his own childhood to create movies, comics and novels about people who are trying to escape from their past.
The Chilean filmmaker became popular in the United States after his 1970 western "El Topo" (The Mole) — the story of a gunfighter dressed in black who searches for enlightenment — sold out on the midnight movie circuit for months, attracting loyal fans back to theaters week after week.
Jodorowsky explained that while some of the maimed and dwarf characters in the film seem unreal, they are inspired on real-life people he saw growing up in the saltpeter (a mineral used for gunpowder and fertilizer) mines of Tocopilla, Chile. He uses the tough, frontier geography of his childhood — he describes Chile as a long sword squeezed between the ocean and the mountains — to create the tension that drives "El Topo."
Similarly, the characters in Jodorowsky's novel "Albina and the Dog-Men" — a supernatural love-horror story about a woman who has the power to turn men into dogs — are on a quest for love, beauty, and enlightenment. And in this sense, the filmmaker says, art imitates life, dramatizing how people evolve psychologically, searching for a greater understanding of the world.
"We use an ego, which is an artificial personality created by the family, society, culture and history," Jodorowsky said. "It defines us, but we are also infinite in a certain way. We are an enormous universe and life is a quest to discover that global conscience — in a magical adventure."
The new film "Endless Poetry" is a magical adventure that relies on Jodorowsky's autobiography to tell the story of a young man — played by the filmmaker's son — who wants to become a poet, and meets Chile's greatest writers, including Enrique Lihn, Stella Diaz Varín and Nicanor Parra.
Jodorowsky says that poetry saved his life, taking him from a small mining town in Chile to Paris, and then connecting him with a higher consciousness of the world.
"Biologically speaking, we have millions of brain cells," Jodorowsky said. "As many as there are stars in the sky. We have an entire cosmos in the skull, and only use a small village."
This village, the filmmaker concludes, can trap people, creating real and imagined walls. But poetry and stories have the power to connect people with the universe and transcend the limits of family and culture.