Anime Review: Belladonna of Sadness (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 24.06.2017

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Belladonna of Sadness (UK Rating: 18)

Belladonna of Sadness is a re-release of a 1973 trippy, crazy, psychedelic, hyper-sexual, weird... thing. It is so unlike anything else ever produced that it's hard to even begin with just what this even actually is! A dark fairy tale, if told by Jean Paul Gaultier while high on 'shrooms, filled with far too many uncomfortable scenes. It's available on 26th June, courtesy of Anime Limited.

The story is centred round a young woman, called Jeanne, and the surreal, tortuous story of her life. Jeanne was a chaste peasant girl who married her love, Jean, and travelled to the King to receive his blessing for their unions. As was the custom, Jean had to pay for her hand and sold his only cow to pay it. However, that wasn't enough for the king, who demanded the cost of 10 cows, and since Jean can't afford that, the King rapes her, and then lets his court do the same.

After this, Jeanne and Jean go through a crazy journey. They become rich and feared, they become hated, and they lose their strength. Jeanne gets raped numerous times, including by dogs. A sex demon appears, and while offering to help Jeanne, he also feeds off her, growing from a pocket-sized creature that climbs over and inside her to the size of a mountain. There are wars, plagues, demons, and monsters, and none of it makes any sense. Jean becomes a witch, a demon, a saviour, and even a sacrifice.


 
View the Red Band trailer here, if so desired

The entire thing is produced to look somewhere between heavy metal, French art, and the sort of hallucinations brought on by copious amount of funky mushrooms. Not the good kind of insanity, like Paprika either, but just absolute "What in the name of God is this? Why is that happening?" There is so much sexual imagery it becomes absolutely exhausting - flowers opening, phallic creatures, veins, curly hairs. It's so profoundly obscene and utterly absurd.

This special edition is comes with the original 1973 trailer, along with the new US trailers produced for this re-release, both the safe for work green band and the explicit red band. There are also interviews with Eiichi Yamamoto, the director who previously produced absolutely amazing pieces of work, like Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and Space Battleship Yamato. Production designer, Kuni Fukai, and audio composer, Masahiko Satoh, are also included. It's a pity the interview with Yamamoto-san didn't focus on his other works, though.

1/10
Rated 1 out of 10

Awful

No. Just, no. It's easy to see what this film was trying to be; it was trying to break moulds and do something new. It is of its time and utterly psychedelic, but it's also completely repugnant and off-putting. There's nothing to enjoy here; not the story, not the art, and not even the direction from a legendary director. This retelling of the Jeanne d'Arc story is one that should never be experienced by anyone. Ever.

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