Kanashimi no Beradonna
Director: Eiichi Yamamoto
Writer: Yoshiyuki Fukuda, Eiichi Yamamoto
Based on: Jules Michelet‘s book Satanism and Witchcraft
Cast: Aiko Nagayama, Katsuyuki Itô, Tatsuya Nakadai, Masaya Takahashi, Shigako Shimegi, Natsuka Yashiro, Masakane Yonekura
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2016
[Review by cornholio.]
Jeanne (Aiko Nagayama) and Jean (Katsuyuki Itô) just got married and are very much in love. But the Lord (Masaya Takahashi) who rules over their village has the right to the first night according to tradition – and he takes it and rapes Jeanne. After she returns to Jean, they try to forget what happened and start their life together. But Jeanne finds herself visited by a phallic demon (Tatsuya Nakadai) who urges her to take revenge.
Belladonna of Sadness is a beautiful film. Striking visuals, haunting music and a challenging story make it something really very special.
I have never seen a film that looks like Belladonna of Sadness, although the style did remind me of many things – I thought I saw parts of it echoed in The Last Unicorn, while it obviously drew on the same comic imagery that Roy Lichtenstein used and maybe also George Dunning‘s work, but with a very different twist to it. The combination of pencil drawings and watercolors gave the film a surreal quality that perfectly aligns with the fairy tale feeling of the story.
The story itself is like a fairy tale – I was surprised to discover that it’s based on a non-fiction book, though obviously with many liberties taken – but one for adults, with a more difficult moral. As such I was wondering if I’d classify it as feminist and I can’t say for sure. Violence against women is certainly something evil in the film, but Jeanne does make a deal with the devil, a tired old stereotype. But then again, she uses the powers she gains through him to do good, which isn’t part of that stereotype… Maybe it’s satanistic feminism? Women may be in league with the devil but that’s good?
Fact is that Belladonna of Sadness tells a story with a woman and her attempts to find her way in a cruel, misogynistic world at its center. While the gender conceptions behind this story may not be the most modern, that is something to be cherished.
In fact, the entire film is something special and to be cherished. It has a magic to it that inexorably draws you in and keeps your eyes glued to the screen.