Movie review of “Belladonna of Sadness”: This trippy 1973 animated movie from Japan, notable for its erotically charged imagery, is a tale of temptation and tragedy, of innocence lost and evil triumphant. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
A virgin, defiled. A pact with the devil, consummated.
Erotomania, running wild.
It’s “Belladonna of Sadness,” and in it there will be blood. And watercolors.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Belladonna of Sadness,’ with the voices of Aiko Nagayama, Takao Ito, Tatsuya Nakadai. Directed by Eiichi Yamamoto, from a screenplay by Yamamoto and Yoshiyuki Fukuda. 86 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains nudity, sexual situations, violence). In Japanese, with English subtitles. Grand Illusion, through Thursday.
It’s a most unusual movie, arriving stateside decades after its original release in Japan. Its outré subject matter certainly had more than a little to do with that. In all aspects, it’s not for the faint of heart.
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It’s animated, but not in the conventional sense. It unfolds at first as a series of watercolor still paintings, the delicacy of their hand-drawn, pastel-hued images in paradoxical contrast to the brutality of the acts they depict.
Later the images move sporadically, morphing and swirling in a manner that’s disorienting and mesmerizing. Released in 1973, “Belladonna” seems very much of its era, from the look of its sylphlike young heroine, who calls to mind supermodel Jean Shrimpton, an icon of that time, to its trippy imagery, with hints at moments of the animation style of “Yellow Submarine”
It’s a classic tale of temptation and tragedy, of innocence lost and evil triumphant.
Directed and co-written by Eiichi Yamamoto (Yoshiyuki Fukuda shares screenplay credit), “Belladonna” is set in medieval times and tells of a woman named Jeanne, who is raped on her wedding night by the lord of a black castle high atop a mountain. She then is tempted by a tiny demon to surrender herself to the eros that until then has been lying dormant within herself. As her erotic impulse grows, so, too, does the demon, until Satan assumes gigantic and, yes, phallic shape.
Subtle this picture is not.