Belladonna of Sadness - Lilith Likes to Watch Animated April 2022

Title: Belladonna of Sadness
Starring: Aiko Nagayama, Tatsuya Nakadai, Takao Ito
Director: Eiichi Yamamoto
Synopsis: A peasant woman is raped by the local lord on her wedding night. To take revenge, she makes a pact with the Devil himself who appears as an erotic sprite and transforms her into a black-robed vision of madness and desire. - Via Letterboxd
Lilith's Notes: Part of a trilogy of animated films which I will not be reviewing.

"I will never give you my soul!"

It's back! Animated April!

But we're not just watching adult animation this time, no. We're watching a very specific kind of adult animation.

Get your ahegao faces ready and hold up your transformation wands, because this April, we're watching four dirty anime.

We begin with Belladonna of Sadness.

Want to spend an hour and a half of your life watching the relentless suffering of a young woman? Great, I have just the movie for you.

This a long and twisting tale so I'll do my best to walk us through it.

Belladonna of Sadness is a 1973 animation that tells the story of Jeanne, an innocent bride who, on her wedding night is forced to pay their debt by giving her virginity to the king.

When the ordeal is over, she cries about how horrible the experience was to her husband who…promptly strangles her to get her to shut up then runs out of their home like a weak little fucking bitch. Jeanne wakes up and uses the ruins of her wedding dress to wash herself of the king's touch.

My bathing kink aside, I love this scene, there's a strong, yet quiet dignity to it. It simply is something Jeanne must do. It's a very good moment. Jeanne will not be alright but she will be able to take matters into her own hands.

A little spirit comes to her and seduces her. It enchants her spinning wheel and she sells textiles to the people of the town. Through her, she and her husband become wealthy and her husband becomes the king's tax collector. Jean fucks up and is punished. Jeanne becomes arrogant and is hunted, abused then chased out of the village.

She accepts the devil into her, and is granted power. She lures the villagers to her garden for nightly orgies. She bewitches the queen to fuck her little lackey, then is burned at the stake.

Women, amirite?

At what point do we finish lauding something on its historical merits and see it for what it is?

Belladonna of Sadness can barely be called an animation. There are extended periods of animation but mostly it's just very detailed story-boarding. It's very pretty story-boarding, to be sure. It echoes the work of Gustav Klimt and Gerald Scarfe, and draws inspiration from collage and psychedelia, watercolor, charcoal and stained glass church windows.

But the story is pure "how the fuck did we get here?" There's too much. It's overstuffed and easily distracted. I think maybe also it holds on to metaphors too tightly. Or maybe it was just a little too heady for me and I was way too sober for it.

In the end, as Jeanne's body burns, we see that she is inside every woman. So remember, girls, you too can be abused by people who claim to love you while also being abandoned by the system and have no value at all except for your beauty. Also, inside every woman is the desire to fuck the devil.

Again, one must acknowledge the historical significance of this movie, but for general viewing, it’s not so great. At least, not without some edibles.

If you want a film where a woman is seduced by the devil and fucks him, well, this movie has it, but... you want a different movie for that.

Might I suggest Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Through the Looking Glass?

Best Moment: For all my complaining, there is some amazing imagery in here. I particularly loved the few seconds  where Jeanne was a black sphinx.

Worst Moment: There are a lot of strobe effects. There was a particular part featuring a plague that seemed very interesting but because of all the strobe lighting I couldn't watch it.

Until next time, my voracious voyeurs. I’m Lilith, and I’m always watching.

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