Belladonna of Sadness
|Belladonna of Sadness|
Original release Japanese B1 film poster, as released by Nippon Columbia
|Hepburn||Kanashimi no Belladonna|
|Directed by||Eiichi Yamamoto|
|Produced by||Tadami Watanabe|
Satanism and Witchcraft|
by Jules Michelet
|Narrated by||Chinatsu Nakayama|
|Music by||Masahiko Satoh|
|Edited by||Masashi Furukawa|
|Distributed by||Nippon Herald Eiga (Japan)|
Belladonna of Sadness (哀しみのベラドンナ Kanashimi no Belladonna, also known as La Sorciere, Tragedy of Belladonna[n 1] or simply Belladonna) is a 1973 feature film produced by the Japanese animation studio Mushi Production and distributor Nippon Herald Films. It follows the story of Jeanne, a peasant woman who is raped which leads to her being accused of witchcraft and is notable for its erotic, violent and psychedelic imagery.
Jeanne and Jean are happy newlyweds in a rural village in France during the Medieval Period. Their idyll is promptly shattered when Jeanne, on her wedding night, is raped in a ritual deflowering by the local baron and his courtiers. She returns to Jean terrified and in pain, and he calms her, saying, "Let us forget everything in the past". She begins to see visions of a phallic-headed spirit encouraging her to take revenge on the baron; meanwhile, the couple's fortunes rise even as famine strikes the village and the baron raises taxes to fund his war effort. Jean is made tax collector, and the baron cuts off his hand as punishment when he cannot extract enough money from the village. After another visit from the spirit, Jeanne takes out a large loan from an usurer and sets herself up in the same trade, eventually parlaying it into becoming the true power in the village.
Then the baron returns victorious from his war, and his wife, envious of the respect and admiration accorded Jeanne, calls her a witch and has her driven out. Jeanne first tries to return to the home she shares with Jean, but he refuses to open the door for her and she flees into the forest nearby where she finally makes a pact with the spirit, who reveals himself to be the Devil. She is granted considerable magical powers, and returns to find the village has been infected with the bubonic plague. Jeanne uses her powers to create a cure for the disease and wins the villagers' favor with her magic, presiding over orgiastic rites among the villagers. A page, who is in love with the baron's wife, begs Jeanne to help him seduce her. She gives him a potion that causes the baron's wife to accept his advances, but the baron catches his wife sleeping with the page and kills them both.
Perturbed by Jeanne's power, the baron sends Jean to invite her to a meeting, which Jeanne accepts. In exchange for sharing her cure for the plague, the baron offers to make Jeanne the second-highest noble in the land, but refuses, saying that she wishes to rule the entire world. The baron has Jeanne burnt at the stake, but as the film ends we see the faces of the villagers all transform into Jeanne's face, mimicking a priest's warning earlier in the film that, if a witch is burnt while her pride is intact, her soul will survive to influence everyone around her. Her spirit goes on many years later to help kick off The French Revolution.
- Aiko Nagayama as Jeanne
- Katsutaka Ito as Jean
- Tatsuya Tashiro as Witch
- Tatsuya Nakadai as The Devil
- Masaya Takahashi as Milord
- Shigaku Shimegi as Milady
- Masakane Yonekura as Catholic Priest
- Chinatsu Nakayama as Narrator
Production and release
Directed and co-written by Eiichi Yamamoto and inspired by Jules Michelet's non-fiction book Satanism and Witchcraft, it is the third and final film in the Animerama trilogy and the only one to be neither written nor directed by Osamu Tezuka (he left Mushi Production during the film's early stages to concentrate on his manga and his conceptual-stage contribution is uncredited). Belladonna is also of a more serious tone than the more comedic first two Animerama films. Its visuals consist mostly of still paintings panned across and are influenced by western art, such as that of Gustav Klimt, and Tarot illustrations (see also the work of Harry Clarke). Production of the film lasted from 1967 to 1973. The film was a commercial failure and contributed to Mushi Pro becoming bankrupt by the end of the year. The film was entered into the 23rd Berlin International Film Festival.
The restoration was screened on July 10, 2015 in a "sneak preview" at Japan Cuts, and then played September 24, 2015 at Fantastic Fest in Austin before a theatrical run beginning May 6, 2016 in New York City and San Francisco.
Because of the film's obscurity, various sources list its running time as anywhere from 86 to 93 minutes. Cinelicious Pics clarified in May 2016 that its 86-minute restoration represented the correct running time, saying that this length had been
cut down by approximately eight minutes for an unsuccessful re-release in Japan in 1979 (with the addition of the brief ending shot of Eugene Delacroix's painting Liberty Leading the People, which wasn't in the original version—Cinelicious left it in this restored version). Cinelicious restored the censored footage from the sole surviving 35mm release print of the full-length version at the Cinematek in Belgium, which very graciously agreed to do a 4K scan of the missing sections from their print.
- The film's title card bears, in addition to the Japanese title, the Latin alphabet title La Sorcière (that of the source book in its original language). The original trailer, posters and video boxes use Belladonna as the film's Latin-character title. Mushi Production's Web site and at least one online review use Tragedy of Belladonna.
- Nomura, Y., ed. "哀しみのベラドンナ / Sorrow of belladonna" (in Japanese). Japan Movie Database. Archived from the original on March 19, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
製作＝虫プロ＝日本ヘラルド 1973.06.30 89分 カラー ワイド / Production = Mushi = Nippon Herald, 1973.06.30 89 minutes color wide.
- Opening credits of film
- Cinelicious Pics spokesperson quoted in Lovece, Frank (May 5, 2016). "Film Review: Belladonna of Sadness". Film Journal International. Archived from the original on June 13, 2016. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
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- "Belladonna of Sadness". Cinelicious Pics. Archived from the original on March 21, 2016. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
- Spencer, Jake (March 21, 2016). "Poster for Long-Lost 'Belladonna of Sadness' is Cleverly Censored for an American Audience". Indiewire.com. Archived from the original on March 23, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
- "Belladonna of Sadness (4K restoration)". New York City: Japan Society. Archived from the original on November 6, 2015. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- Hale, Mike (July 3, 2016). "Japan Cuts Film Festival at Japan Society Emphasizes the Eccentric". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 13, 2016. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- "Belladonna of Sadness". Fantastic Fest. Archived from the original on March 22, 2016. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- Jen Yamato (2015-09-27). "Exclusive: Inside Japan's Lost Erotic '70s Anime 'Belladonna of Sadness'". TheDailyBeast.com. Archived from the original on January 25, 2016. Retrieved 2016-06-09.
- Collis, Clark. "16 must-see movies at Fantastic Fest 2015". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on November 1, 2015. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- Kenny, Glenn (May 5, 2016). "Review: 'Belladonna of Sadness,' a Bewitching Masterpiece". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 13, 2016. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- Collis, Clark (May 6, 2016). "See why Elijah Wood's mind was blown by animated film Belladonna of Sadness—Exclusive clip". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on May 16, 2016. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- "Watch: Long-Lost 'Belladonna of Sadness' Gets a Psychedelic NSFW Trailer". Indiewire.com. Archived from the original on June 13, 2016. Retrieved June 9, 2016.