Spellbound in a whirlwind of love, sex, desire, and disaster, Belladonna of Sadness is a blistering wound of emotions and vices. The nature of sin and excess; the act of wanting too much without understanding the cost. A cautionary tale of indulgence as showcased by an unnamed kingdom positioned in the Middle Ages. The unfortunate recipients of which are Jean and Jeanne, a couple young in love in a world far too cutthroat to accept the purity of their union. Their honeymoon, a nightmarish event, forever tainted by the cruel actions of an aristocrat drunk with power. Deflowered and battered, Jeanne, a victim of the
worst kind of atrocity, is left a wilted rose in her husband's arms. A newlywed couple demoralized by the ones appointed by God to reign over them. Betrayed by those in power and emotionally abandoned by her husband, Jeanne is left to pick up the pieces. With nothing but time to keep her company—misplaced guilt far too stifling to forget, and an act of selfishness far too wicked to forgive—she searches for solace away from society's pitiful gaze. For a way to regain some semblance of self after being deprived of her womanhood.
And in this moment of weakness, desperate and defeated, whispers of vengeance caress her ear, the temptation of which becomes far too alluring to ignore. These sweet whispers are made by a demon, one conjured up by the smoldering embers of spite ignited in place of the self-pity that occupied her idle mind. A chance to strike back at the ones that robbed her is offered. A doleful plea made in the stillness of night, she succumbs to the opportunity, accepting the help of the phallic spirit that appears before her. A decision this trickster demon revels in, as he obtains another fresh prey to sink his fangs into. Her future regret providing a source of nourishment for his mischief, as the slow grooming process begins. A pact was now made with the Devil, signed with the ink of atrocities yet to come and regrets yet to manifest.
This is the world stage that Belladonna of Sadness creates, the means in which it's brought to life sharing equal importance. Watercolor brushstrokes wisp across the curvature of Jeanne's delicate frame, her fair skin left bare, absent of pigmentation. Color pencil outlines contort around landscapes, containing greenery, houses, citizens and wildlife alike; everything encased in its perimeters. Even abstract expressions aren't forgotten; moments of doubt, corruption, depravity, and envy illustrated by ink bleeding in all directions across the canvas. Brittle charcoal lines trailing right behind it to further emphasize the spread of these ideas and emotions.
Oil pastels, watercolor paint, charcoal, color pencils, graphite pencils, stencil outlines; all these utensils used for expression cascades towards a singular vision, harmoniously melding together to bring the story to life. Influenced by the art styles of Harry Clarke, Gustav Klimt, and many others, Belladonna is given a gothic-like expressionistic visual portrayal. Lengthy body postures with spindly limbs. Decorated clothing that hugs their bodies like a second skin. Every bit of it giving birth to a timeless look. Something like a rediscovered tapestry that was lost to the Dark Ages.
Even the namesake of Belladonna helps define the film. Belladonna, a toxic berry also referred to as deadly nightshade, or "bella donna" as derived from the Italian phrase meaning "beautiful woman"—essentially, a deadly beauty—was a plant used throughout history as either a cosmetic accessory or an instrument of death. The film doesn't shy away from this as well, as the Black Plague parallels are just as self-evident here as it is in films like 1957's The Seventh Seal. The biggest difference between the two being the person that serves as arbiter of judgment. Instead of Death himself casting a shadow on all those he encounters, the role is personally taken on by the Devil. He brandishes death in one hand while dangling false hope in the other. That false hope coming in the form of his future mistress-to-be, Jeanne; something we're made privy to as the story slowly unfolds. It's a fate unwillingly bestowed onto her but one she will come to embrace, for better or for worse. It's the birth of a deadly beauty, of belladonna itself.
Tasting the forbidden fruit, what started out as an earnest plea for help quickly spirals into madness, as the payment levied for her request is paid by body and soul. Jeanne gets her vengeance but at a cost that far exceeds what she had expected. Everything is brought to ruin. Her head rests in the crook of her arm, smeared tears coagulate, glistening off her cheek as she reminisces about a simpler time before her decision. But despite her best attempts to return to the beginning, her repentance falls on deaf ears. The outcome only worsens. And so she accepts her role.
We see the depravity of mankind depicted as social tact is abandoned. When people are stripped naked of society's robes and gives into their deepest, darkest desires. Jeanne becomes their catalyst to indulge. Her soul no longer in her possession. Her flesh, an instrument of pleasure. She loses all fabric of her being, and in the process, becomes a force much greater than herself. Like mother nature, she takes her seat among urban legend. A succubus. A pariah. An enchantress of the night. She is lust. A wielded weapon in Lucifer's arsenal.
She sought out revenge from those that used her only to gain the power to harm them through the act of being used. A cruel irony—God isn't the only one with a sense of humor.
It all culminates in the throws of a hedonistic free-for-all. Sex partners made of noblemen and street peasants alike. A ceaseless indulgence as bodies melts into each other, creating an ungodly form, no trace of decency surviving the transmutation. A distorted representation of sin incarnate. Sodom and Gomorrah birthed anew. The Devil's latest atrocity. He sits their satisfied, looking on at the banquet hall of the finest assortment of human perversion. And positioned squarely at the other end of the table sits his finest creation. A mother of scorn. Jeanne joins him hand-in-hand, unafraid of the consequences anymore. The road towards humanity has long been lost in the shadows as she steps closer to the realm of Gods and Demons. Female empowerment has never had a more terrifying representative. Her wrath is as unwavering as her seduction is lethal. And this is what we're left with.
There isn't a happy ending here. Just another chapter where mankind loses. Whether it serves as a sobering reminder of humanity's inevitable self-destruction or just a matter-of-fact depiction of death and sin with parallels of the Great Plague, it's up to you to take what you will from it. As for me, it's a fascinating film that I always find myself revisiting. Each recounter rekindling my love for it or gleaning something new to cherish. It may not have been a commercial success, but as an artistic statement, its efforts were admirable, sustaining a legacy for all those it has gone on to influence.
A corrupted woman is soaked in sin and gradually torn from her soul. Her purity that was once unscathed is now an unbounded commodity. Piece by piece, she is dismantled until the only thing that’s left is flesh and blood. From the ashes of unadulterated youth, now rises something else. The transformation from beauty to grotesque is immediate. A woman is either a maiden or a witch. A sin or a sinner. An unknowing victim or an unholy perpetrator. The existence of both is morally reprehensible. Here we have the scripture of ye old storytelling embedded in every culture, every time, and in every form.
every artifice, every duality inherits a line that exists to challenge it. A tempo-spatial blip where white melds into the black – where Angels mingle with Demons, where grotesqueness is beauty, where tragedy births empowerment, where witches ARE women – explodes with a forgotten force. That coalescing blip takes form in Belladonna of Sadness (Kanashimi no Belladonna): a powerful visual enigma that mesmerizes with bizarre aestheticism and erotic storytelling (one that many will probably write off as a “deep” hentai and in the process, dismiss the work so passionately fueled by the revolutionary spirit that drives all provocative art).
Belladonna is the third and final installment in the Animerama series (adult-themed films) conceptualized by Osamu Tezuka, but due to his early abandonment of the project, it was sought through (in 1973) by Eiichi Yamamoto and produced by Mushi Production. Adapted loosely from the non-fictional musings in La Sorcière by Jules Michelet, Belladonna follows the vicious downfall of a young girl named Jeanne, and thus, her metamorphosis. Even though Belladonna takes influence from Michelet’s book, it is not a literal re-telling. The novelty of Michelet’s work, however, should be noted. La Sorciere attempted to trace the rebellions against feudalism and Medieval practices that subjugated women and peasants. Riddled with folklore, fairy tales, and religious theory, the book opened a new sympathetic vision towards the oppressed, and what eventually manifested into “witchcraft”. Belladonna is a tale about oppression, but also about revolution. What starts off as a fatalistic chain of events steeped in sexual violence and tradition, morphs into a darkly, disturbing tale of empowerment (featuring Satan symbolized as an ever-growing penis, lots and lots of other phallic imagery, and intense psychedelics visuals).
The aesthetical direction in Belladonna is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Sequences of stylistically-independent paintings that are tied by motion. Styles include Klimt-influenced artworks where the female body is the everlasting focus. The only place where precision in detail matters is on Jeanne, and partly her husband and abusers. Following in the symbolist tradition, many embodied the elements of Decadence. These paintings were full of lurid, exploitative objects that were flourishing with mystical context. Decadent art called for transgression and taboo and expressed them through dreamlike visual poetics. Belladonna adapts this with acuity. Abstract, expressionistic paintings also take hold here. The use of placement, distance, object and how they come alive, both with color and shape all reveal this. There are scenes that are built entirely on geometric progression. The painting starts at one point, transforming into a set of shapes that blooms into the eventual scenery. Kaleidoscopic backgrounds and mural-stoned-faces swell up the screen, while continuous mutations and distortions keep the atmosphere full of psychedelic vigor. It’s like a never-ending party in the 60s. The art-style is intensely experimental and frequently disorienting. The styles and influences here are endless: watercolor paintings, ink-stencil portraits, sketchbook graphics, bubbly cartoons, and the list goes on – of all the various art-styles contained in this film. Even though the film ranges in the kind of techniques it employs – many of them being direct contrasts to one another – it never hiccups, not even once. The continual change in style becomes equally as important for the story. It’s a story with centuries of sociopolitical turmoil, unveiled through centuries of art evolution on canvas. And the best part is that it’s always fluid and always flowing.
Consequently, Belladonna's art is demanding, bold, highly erotic, often-etched-imminently, and absolutely unforgiving. The shots move ever-so emphatically; scenes feel as if being drawn out right then and there. The horror here transposes itself not just as a genre, but a state, an endless feeling that seduces the senses while suffocating the mind. There are scenes comprised of simple shapes, lines intersecting, and splashes of unending red and black that are more horrific than most horror films attempting to be anything more than a gore-fest nowadays. The film functions in directional panning waves that slide from painting to painting, with minimal movement and sparse dialogue. One of the most laudable aspects was the use of motion. Films, at a very fundamental level, need to master the skill of motion; to be able to capture the mobility of ideas in a visual format. In the same way that sometimes silence speaks louder than sound, stasis expresses visual ideas more potently than systematic movement. It’s animation revised: unbridled by traditional sequential movement, materialized through motion on canvas. Stasis then becomes as important as motion. Belladonna proves this with its delicate and deliberate staging and execution.
Now really, what is Belladonna about? The aesthetics tell it all. The “how” is infinitely more valuable than the “what”. Even then, there is still plenty to bask in, narratively. Belladonna is a purely visual experience, but isolating the narrative is worthwhile. Reconnecting with the earlier synopsis, Belladonna tells the seemingly unfortunate tale of Jeanne. On her wedding night, as custom dictates, Jeanne and her husband Jean must receive the okay from the baron (through paying ridiculous monetary “gifts”). As they cannot meet the high demands set by the Baron, Jeanne is subjected to ritualistic rape by the Baron and his house of ghastly courtiers. From then onward, Jeanne continues to suffer at the hands of her time, repeatedly violated by those in power and by circumstance, she finds herself in an old-fashioned predicament: compromising her humanity. It’s not original in its premise. Tales of religious persecution, power, and transformation almost always follow a similar formula: striking a deal with the devil. Therefore, the story unfolds on a two-fold: first, on the degradation of humanity and second, on the revival of it.
What sets Belladonna apart is its perspective and thematic subversion. The apparent importance of religion, tradition, and all these concepts that arise from scripture of society all take a backseat for Jeanne’s place in the world. She becomes the singular point of relevance amongst cosmic indifference, where she comes before the judgments of the world. This is crucial for the second half of the story and the ultimate, conclusion. The perspective here is refreshing, in the ways many modern fairy tales are, especially those with a female focus. The one that immediately comes to mind is a collection of short stories by Angela Carter titled The Bloody Chamber. These tales are of the revolutionaries — the nontraditional, and those unaligned with the religious depiction of “woman”–, where through the crevices of preordained evil and sacrilegious, arises positivity in the form of empowerment and transformation. These are far more important than redemption or “survival”. It’s history, art, and humanity revisited but with the scales tipping the other way. Thus, the devil becomes a tool. Evil becomes a means to an end. The deal becomes a means to an end. The body is shown to be purely material and the spirit/soul as mere propaganda. Things that held the greatest amounts of meaning become empty remnants in the face of ultimate transformation. The most important point is that woman and witch remain synonymous. This isn’t a movement to destroy humanity, but to revolutionize it.
Jeanne makes the deal and becomes a witch. Yet, she doesn’t seek revenge in the old-testament sort of horrific way. She sets the way for the townspeople and all those that violated her to find hell in their own manner, whether it’s through hedonism, paganism, or partaking in 24/7 orgies. The Black Plague is also a thing, here (and the origins are hilarious but terrifying). Jeanne helps those struck by the plague (using various plants and concoctions) and becomes their savior. With her “help”, the villagers willingly walk on their personalized road to perdition. (Belladonna is a nightshade plant. The root was used to make medicine, but the leaves and berries are deadly. It’s named after Venetian ladies who used it to dilate pupils for striking appearances). Jeanne assumes her rightly place as the Belladonna who in the wrong doses, proves to be lethal and insurmountable. As Angela Carter reformulates the heroine/woman in modern fairy tales, “Like the wild beasts, she lives without a future. She inhabits only the present tense, a fugue of the continuous, a world of sensual immediacy as without hope as it is without despair,” we find ourselves seeing Jeanne reflected in the very same words. Jeanne descends into –what we perceive as– madness, a form of clinical hysteria from any angle. Despite that, there is something far deeper settling in her reverie: “The girl burst out laughing; she knew she was nobody’s meat.” And that very Carter-ian depiction becomes the absolute state of Jeanne.
Even with the inevitable “end” of Jeanne, the story holds true to what actualized empowerment entails: continuation. It doesn’t end with the body.
Experiencing Belladonna is very much like falling down a bottomless rabbit hole. A visceral drop where one experiences each grain of the twisted earth, swallowing wholly, their entire state of being. The dive isn’t measured. It’s freefall so fast, one almost feels like they are suspended in air, motionless. During those moments, every sensory receptor is attuned to an unknown, unearthly frequency. It’s a film designed to enthrall the senses and heighten all temporality. The kind of thing people do drugs for. Spectacularly, it achieves this for every second of its runtime. Enter this with an open mind. Belladonna knows for she is woman and witch, and both exist here simultaneously.
My city's only arthouse theater decided to play this 1973 anime movie recently. I went with a couple buddies and it was...an experience. I will now try explain my mixed feelings on this rather unique film.
This movie is sometimes called "the lost Tezuka masterpiece" although Osamu Tezuka actually left the project quite early in production. Kanashimi no Belladonna or "Belladonna of Sadness" was written and directed by Tezuka's longtime friend and collaborator Eiichi Yamamoto. Yamamoto worked with Tezuka on Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, as well as writing Space Battleship Yamato, the first Space Opera anime.
Belladonna of Sadness is an X-rated
avant garde telling of a Faustian melodrama set in medieval France. The anime is loosely based on a 19th century non-fiction book called "Satanism and Witchcraft" that posits that ritual witchcraft and Wicca were created to rebel against the patriarchal rule of the Church and Monarchy. The book also prominently featured erotic art by a French artist who went by the pseudonym Martin van Maële. The anime follows the book's example by having a LOT of trippy, psychedelic eroticism that frankly detracts more often than it adds to the film.
A poor farming couple named Jean and Jeanne are married in medieval France. However, they can't afford to pay the outrageously high "wedding tax" of their feudal lord, so the lord demands the right to gangbang Jeanne with his friends on her wedding night. As an aside, this practice was called "Droit du seigneur" and was alleged to have happened in real medieval France, although no hard evidence can be found and many historians believe it was a myth created hundreds of years later. Jeanne is emotionally devastated and her distress summons the Devil, who offers her power and revenge in exchange for her soul. Jeanne agrees at first to give the Devil her body, but not her soul. Satan accepts the offer after some truly bizarre sex and Jeanne gains the ability to spin beautiful fabric.
Jeanne is able to make enough money with her fabric to pay their lord's outrageous tax, so he makes her husband his official tax collector. However, this increase in wealth and power does nothing to improve their happiness. Jean isn't able to collect enough taxes from the peasants, so the lord cuts off his hand. Jean then becomes a miserable drunk. Jeanne is able to use her new gained powers to bewitch a greedy moneylender into giving her a large sum. She is able to give the evil lord the money he demands, but the evil lord's wife is jealous of Jeanne and plots revenge. The countess's Page slashes Jeanne's dress and the townsfolk all immediately decide to try rape her. Jean locks her out of the house and watches while the whole town rapes his wife! After Jean collected his award for "Cuck of the Year", Jeanne gets thrown in the dungeon to rot. She escapes the dungeon with the help of Satan and after reaching her breaking point, she finally agrees to give him her soul in exchange for revenge.
A plague ravages the town and many are killed. Jeanne returns to the town looking beautiful and offers a magical cure for the disease. She convinces the townspeople to rebel against the evil feudal lord and God. Jeanne even gets revenge on the Countess by charming her page into sleeping with the Countess and getting them both murdered by the lord. The lord offers to give her land and power, but she rejects these offers and says she wants "everything". The lord then has her burned at the stake in a scene reminiscent of French heroine Joan d'Arc. The worthless husband Jean finally rises against the lord, but is killed by his soldiers. The rest of the townsfolk cower in fear and Jeanne's rebellion is crushed at least for now. The story ends with French women leading the March on Versailles and stating that in France it is the women that lead revolutions. The End.
You will immediately notice that the art is NOTHING like most anime. The art in this 1973 anime actually seems to be inspired by 1960s European cartoons like Yellow Submarine from the UK and Bremen Town Musicians from the USSR. Eiichi Yamamoto is the one guy that left the theater after watching those movies and said, "This would be WAY better if everyone started fucking!" The animation is quite good for its time though and the surreal art can be quite impressive at points.
The music is often chaotic Bebop jazz. This unfortunately reminds me of Kite, the only other anime with wild saxophone solos while people bang. Occasionally though an ocarina will play accompanied by guitar and reminds me a LOT of the theme "Lonely Shepard" from Kill Bill. I spent at least 1/4th of this movie expecting a Tarantino bloodbath to occur at any minute.
While this movie certainly had strengths like strong animation, a solid soundtrack, and a unique premise...it falls a bit short of being a masterpiece in my opinion. The trippy sex scenes generally seemed like a desperate grab for attention instead of adding to the themes of the story. If this was a minor detail I would let it slide, but they take up around half the entire movie! If you want an elitist arthouse anime with tons of porno that will kick Europeans right in the childhood...this is your anime.
And the award to the most underrated anime of all time goes to a movie produced and realised in 1973, as part of a trilogy by the Manga God, Osuma Tezuka, who leave the proyect. Kanashimi no Belladoona is amovie that the 99,9% of the anime fandom never heard any about. It's really difficut to found it on internet, and that's without subtitles.
But it's a shame. Anime creators like Kuhiko Ikuhara, Utena and Penguindrum's creator, has admitted the influence of this movie. So, why is this film so unknown?
First of all, it's not a typical movie. It's an avant-garde movie, something you will notice just
saying the animation and art style. Forget the formula big eyes, small nose, the charecters are drawn here in a more european look-alike. The colors maybe brillaint and vivid in some scenes, or depressing in others, following the story and the sensations the movie show. The story takes place in the Middle Ages, in France, and the historical portrait is really accurate.
It's the story of Jeanne, a young woman who got the bad luck to born female and poor, and how she gets power, while the lords call her a witch, show us the oppressing situation that women has to live in that era. Searching for freedom and power, Jeanne become more and more an outcast fom the society that mistreat her, and build up aimge of a powerful, terryfing woman, a witch. The social criticize is just brillaint.
Yeah, there's sex in this story. We see an evolution, since the sex as weapon to oppress people that the Milord uses, til the sex as a way to break free, gain power or joint a soulmate.
With or without sex, Kanshimi no Belladonna is a movie that deserves more recognocition for explore themes as feminism, social hipocrisy, the use of religion as a way to oppress the population, and other ways too, and sexuality.
This is nothing groundbreaking, nothing that will change your world, but it is a fun little psychedelic trip. The few iconic scenes alone, such as her rape early on, leave enough that it is enjoyable even if it is a bit lacking in substance.
The art here is interestingly animated. The colors are always interesting to watch, and the animation mostly manages to be coherent despite the psychedelic nature. It is not always especially fluid, and I think that is what it has the hardest time balancing in a way that is totally watchable. I liked the art the most when the fluidity was best, but
it is still nice to look at a lot of the time when it pauses, especially on any beautiful looks of Jeanne. I like the disparity between Jeanne's beauty and everybody else; it lends a real power to her character development.
Jeanne's character as a typically frightfully powerful woman is interestingly played out here - she has a downfall not once, but twice! Jeanne's inability to rely on her husband or anyone at all, despite helping them out, makes her a nice tragic character in these downfalls. The baron is all right for an evil role, especially with how he is drawn, but his wife seems to be an especially weak character, suffocating story and enjoyment any time she is present.
The story is weak, and not because it leaves you guessing, but rather because it just cannot be told enough with the focus on the art. Since the art does spend a lot of time in psychedelic mode, taking minutes to flesh out basic ideas, it cannot really play up aspects of the story that it could otherwise. This also means that you are left guessing about a lot of aspects of the story.
The sound is not amazing, but is pretty much always enjoyable, especially if you like typical hard rock and psychedelic rock sounds. This spends more time sounding like early Deep Purple, but it also manages to sound like early Pink Floyd too. At the end it even adopts a sound like Ecstasy of Gold, but in a more Japanese style. It never excels in any of these modes, but it is never bad in any of them either, and nearly always compliments the art and story well
Overall, this is a rather "indulgent" work to watch, rather than something whose story or action you can simply sit back and let overawe you. If you are bored of typical anime and manga, however, this might be a nice little indulgent break.
Kanashimi no Belladonna, literally translated as 'Belladonna of Sadness' or figuratively as 'The Tragedy of Belladonna' is an avant-garde feature film produced by Mushi Production and directed/co-written by Eiichi Yamamoto in 1973. It was loosely inspired by the 1862 book La Sorcière (Satanism and Witchcraft) by French historian Jules Michelet. It's also the third and final installment in the Animerama trilogy conceived by manga god Osamu Tezuka, but is the only one that was neither written nor directed by him.
This isn't your typical anime by any stretch of the imagination. The rating is listed as Rx, but not to be confused with hentai. It's a
dark and twisted experimental sequence of art and storytelling that should be carefully regarded.
Belladonna of Sadness tells the tragedy of the beautiful peasant woman Jeanne who was raped by the land baron of her village on her wedding night after the couple failed to meet marriage taxes. Spurned by her husband, she decided to make a pact with the devil to gain wealth and power, but not without facing certain consequences. Jeanne becomes a suspect of witchcraft, and is subsequently banished from her village by the baron.
However, with the village quickly becoming swallowed by the cusp of the bubonic plague the baron is forced to change his heart. He summons Jeanne back and offers her the rank of highest noble in return for her to rescue them from despair with the mysterious flower she possessed. Regardless, Jeanne's motives were altered by her painful experiences, and she refused to accept such an offer.. which ultimately leads to her fate and the pinnacle of the film.
The final scene ends with an image of Eugène Delacroix's 'La Liberté guidant le people.' The painting features a female personification of liberty itself, leading a mixture of social classes during the French Revolution. In the film Jeanne finds herself in a similar position, and her impact on society can be compared with that of Joan of Arc, Salem witch trials, and several prominent women in history.
This story is depicted rather well throughout the duration of the film and is often told metaphorically with symbolism rather than figuratively with speech. The nature of it is widely subjective, but compelling nonetheless.
The characters aren't a strong aspect of the film. The only truly memorable character is Jeanne, but like the others she lacks any real development. This doesn't hinder the experience in the end. They merely exist as a route of administration for the lessons and morals lurking in the shadows of the film.
Jeanne's character in particular appears to represent feminism, and relates to a myriad of prominent women throughout history. Especially when considering her comparison with Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc).
Michelet's book La Sorcier which inspired Belladonna of Sadness arguably depicts the story of Joan of Arc, and portrays her resistance against feudalism and the Catholic Church. The similarities with Jeanne can be seen most in the final scenes of the film.
The visuals are reminiscent of watercolor paintings and heavily influenced by western art. It often hangs in limbo between realism and surrealism, and surely isn't considered typical. The quality is fair considering it was produced in the 70s. It has received a 4k restoration which greatly enhances the clarity and colors in the film.
The animation suffers greatly where the art shines. Many of the scenes are depicted by panning across still paintings rather than being animated. This could be seen as a matter of style or budget, but it definitely could've benefited from consistency. Regardless, I think the animation can be forgiven with the era it was depicted.
The music is as funky as the era it came from and varies greatly from the Rock Opera to Psychedelic genre and beyond. It's almost always fitting, and creates indescribable emotions that go hand in hand with the images on screen.
A belladonna is a highly toxic flower, which also stands for 'beautiful woman.' In the past, witches were believed to use a mixture of belladonna and other plants in flying ointment, which they applied to help them fly to gatherings with other witches. A theory for the inclusion of belladonna in flying ointments concerns the dream-like waking state it produces.
Much of the scenes in the film are depicted as if the viewer was under the influence of the belladonna flower. Similar to the flower, the film itself can also be interpreted from many different perspectives.
In my eyes Belladonna of Sadness holds significant implications regarding sexuality, feminism, religion, and history. It presents a thought provoking succession of metaphorical imagery far ahead of its time, and I won't ever forget the impact it had on me.
[SPOILER FREE REVIEW]
First of all, I apologize for the bad English.
Kanashimi no Belladonna is what happens when hentai becomes art. The erotic scenes, here, aren't just sex. Belladonna of Sadness is a real journey through the misogynist universe of Christianity, exploring every single detail of the suffering of women in a sexist society in the most beautiful way that is possible.
The story isn't some Texhnolyze-like complex plot, but it's as sensitive and brainy as. The story follows Jeanne, a christian woman in a truly medieval European scenery (not like Nanatsu no Taizai or Meine Liebe, where there's no representation of the poor people's suffering
by the abusive governments and famine), that wants to get married with a poor guy, but is impeded by the class prejudice, and then get abandoned by him. In the night which Jeanne was supposed to marry, she's raped by some demoniac entity and, therefore, she has no outlet for her awakened libido. The story, like I already said, isn't used to pornographic purposes, but it's a way to report the rape questions, the oppressing structure of marriage, the sexist nature of the religion, the unfortunately very common victim blaming and the sexual freedom of women, which is restricted by the christian society.
The overview of the plot is kinda fantastic, but it can get greater. The story isn't only told by the dialogues and events. It's told by the art too.
The animation is a surrealistic-like, semi-static, very beautiful and meaningful art. Some details improves a lot the story, and I can't even imagine the work it demanded.
Looks like some drawn poetry, an autistic and eccentric unknown vision of the reality, an artistic way to view the hurt. It's the greatest art I ever seen in anime.
Even the sound here is, someway, feminist. The musics reports the sexism in every small act of the daily life, and if you understand Japanese, the experience can be even greater.
If I say that, in 1 hour and 29 minutes of pure surrealistic art, the director developed a three-dimensional character, would you believe? So watch it. Jeanne is a god tier character of all-time movies.
Each character represents some group of people which is involved in prejudiced relations, and to watch it is to get more empathic.
It's outstanding. There's three ways to enjoy or not the movie:
1. Appreciating the humanist messages and denunciations of this masterpiece;
2. Appreciating the not-so-satisfactory pornographic scenes like a masturbation-addicted guy;
3. Depreciating the more-than-coherent critic that the movie make to your religion, being a close-minded and limited person.
But, in all these ways, it's hard to watch Belladonna of Sadness, and it's good: the movie transmitted to you the feeling it has and is.
It's a journey through the sexist society of Christianity. An unique experience. A fucking (haha) masterpiece.
I am seriously shocked that this movie has such a low ranking. This film is more of an art film than a japanese animation film -ok, I guess you noticed it from the beginning of the movie-, thus, you better stop ranking this film according to the usual way of giving a score to an anime. This film certainly lacks of a deep story, and the character development is quite poor, but don't be mislead cause this film wasn't meant to show a great story. The animation and somebody other technical characteristics are what wey are supposed to put our eyes on, and if.somehow you've
failed to notice that most psychedelic films won't get anywhere, you should at least try to focus on the art of this one.
Loosely inspired by Jules Michelet's Satanism and Witchcraft, a fictionalized history of medieval witchcraft in Europe, Eiichi Yamamoto's cult anime Belladonna of Sadness strikes a perfect balance between midnight-movie enchantment and arthouse sophistication. The plot follows two recently married peasants, Jean and Jeanne (Aiko Nagayama and Katsuyuki Itô), as they deal with the aftermath of Jeanne's rape by a local baron (Masaya Takahashi) and his henchman by right of prima nocta. Jeanne eventually makes a Faustian bargain with Satan (Tatsuya Nakadai), who appears to her in the guise of a playful demonic phallus, which initially gives her vast social power, but ultimately breeds tragic consequences
for the couple.
For all its wonderfully gonzo WTF moments, as when the diminutive, phallic Satan slowly grows in stature as Jeanne strokes him, there's also an underlying stately melancholy to the proceedings. The sadistic punishment of Jeanne's body is disturbingly ambivalent, both sensual and sinister, as she welcomes and resists her repeated onslaughts in equal measure. This dualism reflects the film's nuanced view of medieval witchcraft as both a harbinger of feminism and an example of sexual decadence, an act of social transgression that challenged medieval moral and power structures by deliberately embracing what society viewed as an illicit and evil form of behavior.
This cult anime strikes a perfect balance between midnight-movie enchantment and arthouse sophistication.
The film's visuals consist mainly of panning shots of sumptuously painted tableaus, frequently enlivened by startling movements (both sudden and fluid) in unexpected areas of the mise-en-scène. The animation is decadently expressionistic, inspired by works from the last millennium of European art, particularly the sinuous lines and dark eroticism of Aubrey Beardsley, Gustav Klimt, and Egon Schiele. The scenes depicting war and plague exude a particularly hallucinatory quality; we see the plague literally eating away at the foundations of medieval society, as cathedrals and other monuments of feudal power dissolve into formless wisps of smoke and specters.
Belladonna of Sadness nevertheless reflects a uniquely Japanese id, as evidenced by such touches as Jeanne and Satan's lovemaking session, where her hair flows in the ether like the tentacles of an octopus in the ocean. Such elements, along with Masahiko Satoh's incredible psychedelic soundtrack, connects Jeanne's liberation struggle against the authorities of medieval Europe with Japan's contemporary political and social unrest. The visual excesses reinforce the film's underlying attack on the repressive banality of conventional political rule. Jeanne's extravagant sexuality has no labor value in a medieval society that relies on the economic exploitation of the peasant masses; it thus functions as a criticism of the oppressive materialism of a world supposedly dedicated to spiritual values. Embracing evil is her only way to achieve sovereignty in a world where God has become a tool of repression.
Jeanne rebels against God as the spiritual embodiment of the patriarchal state that violated her in the form of the baron and his court. This follows Michelet's reading of witches' covens as an early example of popular rebellion against the authoritarian state that would culminate in the French Revolution. Jeanne is a forerunner of the equally liberated Liberty Leading the People, Eugène Delacroix's topless embodiment of the women (in Michelet's conception) who led the populist revolutions that shook Europe throughout the 19th century. And yet, it's a very phallic Satan that endows Jeanne with her growing social and political agency during her rise and eventual fall from the pinnacles of power. If this attempt to link medieval witchcraft with the modern women's liberation movement ultimately comes off as a bit perfunctory and confused, the effort is nevertheless emblematic of the film's largely successful effort to deliver a beautifully trippy mindfuck with some philosophical depth.
Critic Review by Oleg Ivanov - slantmagazine
Original Source: http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/belladonna-of-sadness
Belladonna of Sadness is one of the greatest, most unheralded pieces of animation of all time. Maybe the greatest psychedelic cult film ever, second to Yellow Submarine. Belladonna is born out of same fabulous furry freak mindset that allowed for Fritz The Cat exist, except this film takes it to unprecedentedly beautiful and poignant heights. It's like the Bitches Brew of animation. Wonderful, wild, psychedelic, artful, freewheeling, innovative even if it's influence is nowhere to be seen in any other film (but maybe that's to come in the future.) Even at it's most explicit or pandering, it's still meaningful on multiple levels whether it's the
masterful animation, the relevancy of the story/characters, the contrast of music and image or even just the overall tone of the film. I don't even think any of this was intentional by the director, it seems it was meant to be just another disposable hentai film which makes it's poignancy all the more remarkable. A great film not just compared to other anime, but compared to other great films in general (animated or not.) Don't miss this and if you have to give it more than one shot, trust me it's worth it.
I was intrigued to watch this , hearing the studio apparently went bankrupt producing this. Well, that and the beautiful art. But would I recommend this to a fellow anime lover? No.
Apart from the beautiful watercolor art, the story lacks character. Maybe that's what it was meant to be, when we stare across the walls of art gallery , we do not know half of the story displayed. Rather it evokes strong emotion according to our persona and past. While movies can be a great medium to be sad, happy, inspired, scared- the one thing it should not be is stressful. Watching this
felt like swallowing a cup of bitter medicine, I remember having to pause every 10 minutes because it gave me a headache .
But the amazing art, the symbolism, the better than average sound- made this a digestible experience and I may find myself rewatching parts of it when I am older and more mature. But right now , it caused me too much stress, I can understand why it was a huge flop (besides being such a highly X rated film) .
All in all, for fellow artists, it is something to watch once and archive, never to touch again for years. But no matter what, I do not plan to watch it again, because it haunts me in a way horror movies could not. It haunts my soul and mind. Belladonna of Sadness, thank you and f*** you for your time.
A lost cult classic of anime, Belladonna of Sadness is the third film in a trilogy of erotica anime films called Animerama made by Mushi Production and had some sort of involvement from famous anime director Osamu Tezuka from 1969 to 1973 (Tezuka being a producer for Belladonna). Set in a pre-French Revolution era French village, new bride Jeanne finds herself raped by her village's corrupt lord and turns to witchcraft to escape the cruelty of the local lords influencing her village.
The immediate thing that will stick out to many viewers of Belladonna is its avant-garde visuals. Many of the visuals are beautifully-done watercolor drawings
that have lush colors and a good amount of detail, with limited animation applied to them. A good amount of the visual sequences are symbolic representations of sexuality applied to Jeanne's tragic situation and eventual acceptance of her open sexuality. The film was made with a limited budget as this was the final animated work made by Mushi before they went bankrupt, but whatever limited resources they had work beautifully with what was done for this film to create a unique psychedelic experience. Just as a fair warning though, some of the animated sequences in Belladonna can trigger seizures for those sensitive to light thanks to light strobing effects applied to them.
In regards to plot, Belladonna is fairly straightforward as Jeanne talks with the Devil during the first half of the film to resist giving in to evil, while eventually giving into her inner demons. However, there is far more depth put into this film than what it seems on the surface thanks to its sexually-charged symbolism. Without spoiling too much, the film is a critique on how society can repress women and the lower class, with the Devil in this film not being as evil as the lords would have the villagers believe as he is a representation of the freedom that can be gained if Jeanne and others defy the social order established. However, the film will certainly not be appropriate for younger audiences thanks to its strong violent and sexual content found with many of its animated sequences.
While certainly not for everyone thanks to its arthouse-style presentation and sexually explicit themes, Belladonna of Sadness is still a unique lost film of anime history thanks to its beautiful and surreal visual presentation, and sexually-charged symbolism of seeking freedom from an oppressive and corrupt social order. If anime coming from directors like Kunihiko Ikuhara have struck your interest before, then Belladonna is certain to grab your interest here.
The first time I've ever heard about this movie was by doing some research in Osamu Tezuka's many works, when I stumbled upon the adult animated trilogy "Animerama" (consisting of "1001 Nights", "Cleopatra", and "Belladonna"). I first watched "1001 Nights" (sadly in Italian...) and was quite surprised that the father of Astro Boy and Kimba could do something so silly and mature. I glanced then at "Cleopatra" and quickly stopped because I already saw two movies destroying the image of the last pharaoh (with a feathered hat-wearing Gaul, nah mean?), then I finally got to see "Belladonna", and let me tell you, if you thought
Dante's Divine Comedy was hard to go through, then this movie is way much harder to peer into.
The story is basically a tale of witchcraft (female of course) in the late Middle Ages. That's it.
The soundtrack is a bit like Pink Floyd but on steroids.
The art and animation are quite a hit and miss (a hit for the art style, and a little miss for the animation). Basically, you take the psychedelic animation from "Yellow Submarine" and mix it with Playboy magazines with a little bit of early Yoshitaka Amano art style, and there you have the animation and art standards of this movie.
In conclusion, be really prepared for this acid trip made non-directly by one of the fathers of anime.
Visually Impressive, I mean absolutely gorgeous. There are several different art styles that Yamamoto utilizes and each one was equally as impressive for its own reasons. Soundtrack is also excellent, I found myself mesmerized by the long scenes of visuals and music coinciding into one long visual trip. Seriously, go check out the OST, it's beautiful free jazz composed by Masahiko Sato. Not a good film for casual viewing because although a pretty film, I found the story lacking and developed no real relationship to the characters. These are trivial issues when dealing with a film of this nature however. Overall an impressive art house
anime thats not too preoccupied with conveying a story conventionally, but successfully portrays something hypnotizing and breathtaking.
Gorgeous animation drives this feature-length film, awash in 1970s psychedelia and brash sexuality. The story has a fable-like feeling to it, although I could never determine if there was a point that was being made (and if there was, whether I even agreed with it). It's an *adults only* film, with sexuality forming a very key part of its identity--going beyond nakedness and into the ambiguous realm of suggestion and innuendo. At times immature (realizing, for example, that the "demon" character is shaped like a penis), but, I feel, generally with a point that feeds the subtext. Unfortunately I don't know what that subtext is,
but no matter. Whatever the case, this is a must-see for fans of beautiful animation.
This is an odd one, and I fell asleep for a bit towards the middle. Basically, an experimental animation about a woman who finds liberation through sex and inspires a revolution among the people by showing them to indulge in and accept their sexual desires. The problem is that doing so is combined with her accepting a devil penis, so indulging in sexuality is also connected to evil symbolism. Eventually, the patriarchy comes and ends the party and some pictures of women revolutions are shown to let us know that it's meant as an empowering film. If it's supposed to be empowering, why have her
be raped by the source of her power? Weird choice. (OK, so it waited for her to say yes, but if that were a person any decent person would have stepped in and said "Nah, tho.")
The art was mostly still, and it was sometimes gorgeous. Animation and color changes were usually used symbolically to show how liberated and free the characters were. Characters exposed to sex got specially colorized, the already powerful ruling class was always colorized. That sort of thing. It's certainly unique, but it doesn't stand as a big sign that less animation is a special statement or anything.
This is what happens when 90% of your budget goes to acid tabs.
The third and final film of the Animerama trilogy, this was ultimately a failure that contributed to the demise of the Tezuka-founded Mushi Pro Studio. Unlike the previous two movies that delved heavily into the wacky, zany world of slapstick comedy at times, Belladonna maintains a serious tone throughout. And because of this, it ultimately is the stronger of the three movies.
What all three have in common, though, is their experimental, trippy, psychedelic presentation. In fact, Belladonna turns this up to eleven,
and turns it into a ninety minute acid trip experience. Overall the animation is limited - maybe only 20% of the time is there limited animation on the screen. Most of the time, it's pan-and-scan over still images of (to be honest well-drawn) art.
I went into this expecting to hate this movie, following the an uninspired 1001 Nights and a disappointing Cleopatra. But as the movie progressed, it did grow on me a little, partly because of the tragic tale of Jean and Jeanne, but also it was an interesting visual experience.
Kanashimi no Belladonna, or Belladonna of Sadness, is nothing more than an obtuse piece of art that can be interpreted in many different ways; if you need any of evidence of this, it even made it on the Criterion Collection list. Warning to the audience, if you want something with a concrete story that makes sense without flowery artistic liberties… then this film is NOT for you. The film is also very sexually graphic, and is rated under the Rx-Hentai category on MyAnimeList.
• The only thing you really need to know about the story is that the main character marries a man whoーthen sells
her to the Devilーwhere she gets raped continuously, and then the remnants of the movieーrepresents her tumultuous journey towards salvation. Jean, the husband, he mysteriously looks like Roman Polanski, the wife, Jeanne (Sharon Tate), holds physical similarities, and the pastor who marries them, note: suspiciously looks like Charles Manson. This film may be a commentary on the connection between the Manson murders and Roman Polanski at the time (there was a criminal investigation correlating the two back then), but that's purely speculation on my part, based on how similarly the designs resembled them.
• Rife with a plethora of religious and historical allegories. If you're into 2deep4u religious symbolism, like in Neon Genesis Evangelion, than you would love the all show, no-tell-all-show feeling within Belladonna of Sadness. I don’t mean that in a condescending way, I mean, I really like things that resemble this. I gave End of Evangelion a 10/10 for CHRISTsake, because there’s an excuse for a religious pun!
• The film contains a lot of stills and there’s BARELY any animation, except for when a memorable scene, primarily without dialogue, takes place. The audio quality is what you would expect of an anime from 1973. I must say that it was jarring to hear the very low pitched voice, saying, "Kawaii," to Jeanne before raping her. The first time I watched the film was raw, too, so it was super weird with no context.
• Often called the "lost Tezuka masterpiece," as it is very much in the same vein as Osamu Tezuka's adult ventures, such as Cleopatra. Side note: if you want to check out more of Tezuka's adult oriented works, then titles like MW, Ayako, and Ode to Kirihito exist and are mandatory reads for old fags and self-proclaimed oldies, like me.
• Overall, if you're in an overly precocious mood and feel ready to equip the beret that has been collecting dust in the corner of your room (gotta save the pretentious-wear for that one special occasion that you’ve been eagerly awaiting; always) then get ready to show your friends an experience that they'll call you a pervert for liking, and then you must retort with a reply that will not put that beret to shame, what every artistic douche is put on this Earth for; stroke your imaginary (or non-imaginary) beard, scoff, and tell them that they don't understand TRUE art. I give this piece, that is visually appealing, but falls very short of what you can shelf as a masterpiece, a 5/10.
It is definitely interesting movie. One cannot forget the date at which it was made. Plot is simple and not complicated, but has enough substance to be interesting. In my view it is mainly about finding of women place in society and critique of a man society and its attitude towards women. Visiual style is stunning. Usage of watercolours and black and white ink drawings as well as still images was beautifully done. Altough I would prefert little less still images and some psychadelic scenes, where bit too much for my taste. As far as erotic content goes, some of it was nicely done (I
imagine it was meant mainly as an allegory for women status) but some scenes where unnescessary. But overall I enjoyed it and would recommend it (but mainly to those seeking little bit unconventtional anime experience).
It's difficult to say whether the fact that the rape scenes are really disturbing counteracts the fact that they are presented so frequently that they end up more of a vehicle for visual experimentation than as a means of expressing a coherent statement, feminist or otherwise. It's too wishy washy to be interpreted as a cogent progressive work, but also in my opinion too intent on using the suffering of its female lead to attack patriachy, as opposed to using her plight as a melodramatic device or as titillation, to be accused of being misogynistic.
The only excellent aspect of the film is its visual
experimentation. It borrows from Schiele and Klimt and ukiyo-e, mixing them seamlessly at some times and honing in more explicitly on one specific style at others, and the fluid switches between these approaches are always extremely well executed.