Anime / Kanashimi No Belladonna

Kanashimi no Belladonna (literally Belladonna of Sadness, also known as The Tragedy of Belladonna) is an avant-garde anime film made in 1973, and Inspired by... Jules Michelet's non-fiction book Satanism and Witchcraft (or La Sorciere). The film was directed by Osamu Tezuka's disciple Eiichi Yamamoto, and produced by Tezuka's studio Mushi Productions.

The story follows the peasant woman Jeanne, who has just been Happily Married to Jean, when the village nobility demands an absurdly high marriage tax. The couple can't pay, so the baron sees fit to have his way with the bride.

When she returns home, Jeanne is seduced by a demon, and finds herself gradually turning to witchcraft to find empowerment and freedom. At first, she and her husband are prosperous, but as famine, war, and the bubonic plague strike the rest of the village, suspicion grows, and Jeanne is eventually cast out of the village. She wins the villagers over, when she offers a miracle cure for the plague, but then the nobility catches wind of her power...

Although the film was initially a commercial failure, it has gained some recognition in anime circles for its experimental animation, which is full of beautifully painted still images, Gustav Klimt Art Nouveau inspired imagery, and heavily stylized depictions of sex. The film also inspired Kunihiko Ikuhara to work in anime, and its visual and thematic influences can be seen in Revolutionary Girl Utena.

Released in 2016 with theatrical and home video re-release in North America, the official and Red Band trailers can be found here and here.

This film provides examples of:

  • The '70s: Jeanne and Jean's full hair, the trippy images derived from Art Nouveau, and the quirky folk-rock soundtrack make it pretty obvious that this was made in the early '70s.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The baron and baroness.
  • Animation Bump: It's rather an animation earthquake when the slide-show "animation" is suddenly replaced by a full-animated psychedelic extravaganza during the Deal with the Devil.
  • Back from the Dead: The first villager Belladonna heals from the Black Plague, to the shock of his fellow peasants. His recovery leads the rest of the village to follow Jeanne and her witchcraft.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: The baron doesn't seem to remember torturing Jeanne and Jean.
  • Clothing Damage: When Jeanne flees from the village, her cloak and tunic are gradually ripped apart until she reaches the wildnerness completely nude.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Jeanne gets executed on a burning cross-shaped stake.
  • Does This Remind You Ofanything: All over the film, but most strikingly the devil, who is a literal dickhead.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: The court of the baron and baroness.
  • Deal with the Devil: Jeanne makes a series of deals to gain increasing material and magical power, culminating in selling her soul entirely during the Deranged Animation sequence below.
  • Deranged Animation:
    • The sex scenes, especially Jeanne's rape note , are packed with surreal and often disturbing imagery.
    • The "transformation scene" is particularly surreal and even visually quotes Yellow Submarine.
    • The Black Plague sequence
  • Dies Wide Shut: Jean, after being impaled with many spears
  • Downer Ending: Jeanne is burned alive, Jean is killed during his attempt to save her, and the rest of the village is cowed into submission to the Baron.
  • Droit du Seigneur: What kicks off the plot. Jean is unable to pay the exorbitantly high marriage tax to the baron, leading the baron and his entire castle to gang rape Jeanne as substitute payment.
  • Gainax Ending: As Jeanne is crucified and burned the faces of the women watching her all turn into the faces of Jeanne. Then an end title card displays a statement about how women lead the French Revolution over the image of ''Liberty Leading the People. The end.
  • Happily Married: All of five minutes in the film before things go downhill.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Jean
  • Intimate Healing: Jeanne's apparent method of curing the Black Plague.
  • Limited Animation: A significant portion of the movie is made of either still images or pans over paintings.
  • Mind Rape: Jeanne's encounter with the fully-grown demon in the wilderness might qualify.
  • Mind Screw: The symbolism and imagery can be nigh-incomprehensible at times.
  • No Name Given: The members of the Baron's court.
  • Nude Nature Dance: Jeanne kicks off the village orgy with one of these.
  • Rape as Drama: In a very symbolic but very graphic scene.
  • Visual Innuendo: Despite the numerous explicit sex scenes and a distinct aversion of Barbie Doll Anatomy, the animation uses free forms and contours to convey the eroticism of these scenes.
  • Widget Movie: See Deranged Animation. This movie is utter fucking madness.
  • World of Symbolism: Virtually every scene in the movie contains some highly symbolic reference to sex or magic or religion or...really everything.

Alternative Title(s): Belladonna Of Sadness