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Belladonna of Sadness

Eiichi Yamamoto
Kanashimi no beradonna
Japan 1973 / 86’
Anita: Swedish Nymphet Bilbao

Completing the Animerama trilogy, this visually refined animation is an adaptation of Michelet’s The Sorceress, drawing on both European art and Japanese comics. A country girl named Joanna is marrying Jean, but the local baron uses the right of the first night to kidnap and rape the girl. Her despair, pain and helplessness give birth to a demon—of clearly phallic dimensions. Having sealed a pact with him, Joanna gains formidable powers, liberates herself sexually, regains control of her body and learns about pleasure. But the strong, liberated—also economically—woman evokes envy and hostility. She is accused of making a pact with the devil. This erotic, visually orgiastic fairy tale about a medieval French boy is rooted in the stormy reality of Japan in the 1970s, a time of radical student movements and the birth of the ribu feminist movement. Eiichi Yamamoto’s animation resonates with the atmosphere of its time, at least in the way it treats sex and violence. This perverse alchemical mixture of pleasure and pain simultaneously frees the heroine and punishes her for her boldness. Before the film took on cult status (mainly in the West), it led to the collapse of the Mushi Production studio. Belladonna of Sadness was presented in the competition at the Berlinale. 

Małgorzata Sadowska

Eiichi Yamamoto

Born in 1940, Eiichi Yamamoto is a Japanese anime director and producer. He began his career at the Otogi studio, where he made Astro Boy. He and Osamu Tezuka co-founded the Mushi studio. Together, they created Animerama, an animated erotic trilogy inspired by the popular pinku eiga. After declaring bankruptcy, Mushi Production joined Toei, for which he directed Space Battleship Yamato

Selected filmography

1964 Tetsuwan Atomu / Astro Boy

1966 Janguru Taitei / Kimba the White Lion

1969 Senya Ichiya Monogatari / A Thousand and One Nights

1970 Kureopatora / Cleopatra

1973 Belladonna smutku / Kanashimi no Belladonna / Belladonna of Sadness

1977 Uchū Senkan Yamato / Space Battleship Yamato

1985 Odin - Koshi Hansen Starlight / Odin: Photon Sailer Starlight

Cast & Crew

director Eiichi Yamamoto
screenplay Yoshiyuki Fukuda, Eiichi Yamamoto
cinematography Shigeru Yamazaki
editing Masashi Furukawa
music Masahiko Satô
cast Tatsuya Nakadai, Katsuyuki Itô, Aiko Nagayama
producer Osamu Tezuka, Tadayoshi Watanabe
production SpectreVision, Mushi, Nippon Herald Films
sales Gold View
language Japanese
colouration colour