Belladonna of Sadness was first released in 1973 and is based on the novel La Sorciere (Satanism and Witchcraft) by Jules Michelet. This film adaptation was brought to us by anime studio Mushi Production and directed by Eiichi Yamamoto.
“I’ll give anything if someone would save me, even my soul…”
The film opens with the story of Jeanne and Jean, hopelessly in love and eagerly anticipating their wedding. They head to see the Lord of their town, offering money from the sale of their cow as tribute upon their wedding. The Lord however, insists upon payment of ten cows, which they cannot afford. Instead, he takes Jeanne’s virginity as payment, having his way with her and then handing her over to his court to be gang raped, before sending her home to her husband.
It is at this point that you begin to realise quite how graphic this film is going to be, with very disturbing imagery of her body been torn in half and blood pouring out. Although the majority of the film is still images being panned across, certain aspects such as the characters thoughts and feelings are also animated.
In her desperation, she makes a plea and her prayers are answered, although not in the way she would have wanted. As she uses her spinning wheel, a tiny spirit appears and explains to her that she has summoned him. She quickly realises that he is the Devil, but she makes the pact nevertheless, begging him to help her husband.
Although the town is starving, her thread sells well and her husband is the only man who can pay his taxes, thus earning him the job of tax collector and securing their financial future. However, the locals begin to spread rumours that she is possessed by the Devil and that she is a witch, as they are thriving while all others fail.
Nevertheless, when the Lord heads off to war, she becomes a moneylender and gains wealth and power, more even than the Lady, who is very annoyed. When the Lord returns, she is cast out, further into the erotic embrace of the Devil and revenge will be her only recourse.
Belladonna of Sadness is a very strange film. Much of the narrative is in the form of song, sung in Japanese yet weirdly French sounding, while the rest is told by a narrator. The style is very psychedelic and it is very obviously a seventies film, although there are some stand out moments of animation, such as the mind blowing scene when the black death hits the town.
There are many very explicit moments depicted and the story itself is horrible, I can’t imagine it would be many people’s idea of fun. The whole thing is basically a cautionary tale about making deals with small penis shaped entities. If, however, this is your kind of thing, then this box set would be well worth getting as it comes with very nice collector’s packaging.
“I can become as big and strong as you want me to. It’s all up to you..”
Belladonna of Sadness is available to buy now on Collector’s Edition Blu-ray.