[Anime] ‘Belladonna of Sadness’ by Eiichi Yamamoto

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News reached me that Belladonna of Sadness [哀しみのベラドンナ] (1973) is finally being released for the first time ever in America this month. I thought it good timing to rewatch my Japanese DVD of this long lost gem in animation. Produced by the now defunct Mushi Production and directed by Eiichi Yamamoto [ 山本暎一], the film is loosely based on Jules Michelet’s (1798-1874) La Sorcière (1862), a historical account of the witch hunts.

Synopsis:
The heroine Jeanne is raped by the feudal lord, who exercises his droit du seigneur on her wedding night. Her husband nearly strangles her for her ‘impurity’ but in the end tells her to forget about the incident. One day, as she is spinning, the devil appears, saying that she has called out to him to help her in exchange for her soul. The devil wakens her sexual libido and, after much resistance, she finally yields to the pleasure he gives. She goes to town wearing a green coat (green being the colour of the devil) and ‘earns’ a lot of money. A war then takes place and the feudal lord leads the men away for war. On his return, he is told by his lady, who is jealous of Jeanne’s erotic powers, that Jeanne is possessed by the devil. The lord then allows his soldiers to gang-rape her. She runs towards her home but her husband locks her out, so she turns to the devil for refuge. Later, a plague strikes the land and it is discovered that she can cure the sick miraculously, which eventually leads to accusations of witchcraft…

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