One of the most memorable Japanese experimental adult animation films of all time, Belladonna of Sadness by Eiichi Yamamoto tells the sad story of a woman who wished to be free and happy in the cruel world dominated by men.
The story is set in what looks like European Middle Ages. Jeanne and Jean are in love and ask the local baron for permission to get married. But Jean is poor and has no money to buy Jeanne's freedom from the ritual deflowering by the cruel and greedy baron. Their happiness compromised, Jean convinces his wife to forget about the past. A phallic-headed demon starts visiting Jeanne in her dreams: he offers her support, so she could protect Jean from poverty and oppression. Jeanne accepts the offer and becomes the slave of the demon who grows bigger with every visit.
The third film in the erotic trilogy Animerama conceived by influential manga artist Osamu Tezuka, Belladonna of Sadness was however the only one in the making of which he did not take part. The film’s visuals consist of still art nouveau-style paintings and animated inserts, while its genre could be defined as dark fantasy, where bold erotic images and poetic metaphors (including the references to the story of Joan of Arc) carry a strong antiwar and feminist message.
Belladonna of Sadness
Directed by Eiichi Yamamoto. 89 min. Japan. 1973