BELLADONNA OF SADNESS
(a/k/a: Kanashimi no Belladonna, The Tragedy of Belladonna)
dir. Eiichi Yamamoto, 1973
Japan, 89 mins.
In Japanese with English subtitles
WARNING: This film contains scenes of animated sexual and bloody violence as well as persistent flashing colors which may be triggering to some viewers.
Shortly after marrying her beloved Jean, Jeanne is raped by a vicious baron in the rural village where she lives. Though she returns home to Jean who encourages her to move on with him and look towards their future together, Jeanne can't escape these demons...literally. Soon she begins to be visited by a shape-shifting being whispering in her ear to seek revenge on the baron who treated her so cruelly. Jean has become a tax collector but when he can't gather enough to make his quota, the baron has his hand cut off as a form of payment. Jeanne slips deeper into her hallucinations as visions of time and other worlds fly by her eyes, pushing her towards her ultimate goal. Driven away from the village and even turned away by her beloved - Jeanne makes a pact with a spirit in the woods (Spoiler alert: it's the devil) and gains immense magical powers which she then uses against those who have wronged her.
Yamamoto's swirling, hypnotic, visionary film seems to, at times, almost melt off the screen. So too will your brain as you witness this colorful and fluid masterpiece. Think of Fantasia by way of Pinku on the best drugs you've ever done and then add and funky psychedelic soundtrack and you're getting close. Based loosely on a 19th century French tome called La Sorcière by Jules Michelet this brain-bender will transport you to places unknown and then back in time for Sunday brunch...but will you be the same? (No.)