An evil feudal lord rapes a village girl on her wedding night and proceeds to ruin her and her husband's lives. After she's eventually banished from her village, the girl makes a pact with the devil to gain magical ability and take revenge.
Blessed--and at the same time cursed--with the precious but fatal gift of beauty, the young peasant, Jeanne, falls in love with the beautiful villager, Jean, in late-1800s France. However, as the village's foul feudal lord exercises the "Droit du Seigneur" or the "Right of the First Night" on the couple's wedding night, a desperate plunge to a world of disturbing hallucinations will eventually lead Jeanne to a damned Faustian bargain with the Prince of Darkness. Thirsting for power and a sweet retribution, Jeanne will gradually transform into an omnipotent and destructive vessel of seduction, as her newly-acquired powers go hand in hand with the blackest of witchcraft. Is there a limit to Jeanne's hatred?Written by
Although it was released theatrically in Japan and Europe in the 1970s, and had a Japanese home video release in 2004, the 2015 restoration by Cinelicous is the first time the film has had an official release in the United States. See more »
There are no ending credits or a 'THE END' title; all the credits are at the beginning. The opening theme is reprized over a blank screen after the final scene. The 2015 restoration adds a copyright byline and credits for the restoration. See more »
"According to the DVD pamphlet, there has been at least five versions of Belladonna of Sadness.
The first was a draft version hastily filled with temporary placeholder shots in order to meet a deadline. It has never been shown in public. The second version included [live-action footage] by Daido Moriyama...showing sex and nudity. Apparently Moriyama took...footage of men and women engaging in the sex act in parks and red-light districts. [This] footage [was] meant to be shown during two interval breaks (in the first half after Jeanne's contract with the devil and in the second half after the coming of spring). Although these had been shown in some early theatre viewings, they were ultimately omitted in the later versions in order to maintain the film's unity of artistic style. The second version also ended with the devil laughing in the crowd after Jeanne's execution. This ending was poorly received at the Berlin Film Festival, and was omitted altogether in some later versions. The third version was one edited for theatre screenings. This version omitted Moriyama's live-action footage and ended with the devil's laughter. The fourth version was one edited for the revival of this film in 1979. Because the creators were concerned about female college students among their audiences, they omitted the aggressively sexual scenes. At the same time, they also added the scene towards the end where the "face of Jeanne" is reincarnated in a crowd of female by-standers who saw her execution, and the final scene where the Old Regime is toppled by revolutionaries during the French Revolution. The fifth version is the LD disc video version. They restored the sexual scenes omitted in the fourth version. See more »
When I started the film, I was lured in by its bleak narrative and erotic imagery. If it weren't for the language, Belladonna would be unrecognizable as anime, with its realistic proportions, faded colors, sexual themes, and psychedelic imagery/soundtrack. I quickly emphasized with our lead's suffering, and the allure of Satan himself when all joy and hope is dead.
Unfortunately, while the initial premise was fascinating and sensual, Belladonna lacks the depth to make it a masterpiece. There is no real development. There are no likable characters. Jean doesn't ascend from her demons. Her downfall isn't particularly evocative. Its half emotional torture porn, half stoner fuel.
The animation is also kind of bad. Heck, most of the time, you're only given stills. Some shots are beautiful, but others seem very cheap. Others are nonsensical, immature pieces of graffiti that somehow snuck into an art film.
Belladonna seems disjointed between two opposite demographics and isn't good enough for either one. I wish someone could do this story better justice. But it was an interesting movie, especially for its time. Because of a few scenes and overall unique place in animation, I'd recommend it to those who are into more "art house" film. I wouldn't to those who want strong character and narrative.
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