"Belladonna of Sadness": Animated Japanese Psychedelia
"Belladonna of Sadness" (1973) - also known as Tragedy of Belladonna - is a trippy time capsule of psychedelia and sexual frankness.
"Belladonna of Sadness" is a 1973 feature film produced by the Japanese animation studio Mushi Production and distributor Nippon Herald Films. It follows the story of Jeanne, a peasant woman who is raped which leads to her being accused of witchcraft, and is notable for its graphic and suggestively erotic, violent and psychedelic imagery.
A medieval French farm couple, Jean and Jeanne, wish to marry and ask the local lord for his blessing. The lord demands a fee, and when the poor couple can't pay it, he takes Jeanne as his court's sexual plaything. Jeanne is raped and left in tatters, then rejected by her husband as unclean. Alone in the woods, she is visited by the devil — looking rather like an erect penis — who offers her power to smite her oppressors in exchange for her soul.
Director Eiichi Yamamoto borrows from Jules Michelet's 19th-century history of satanism and witchcraft, "La Sorcière," to give the narrative the feel of a dark folktale, backed by '70s pop music (written by Masahiko Satoh and sung by Chinatsu Nakayama, the film's narrator).
The visuals, starting with static line drawings and morphing into kaleidoscopic images reminiscent of "Yellow Submarine" and Gustav Klimt paintings, capture Jeanne's transformation from sexual victim to conquerer and back again. The results are sometimes disturbing, sometimes beautiful and always fascinating.