Welcome to Monsoon-a-day.
Where I watch and review a movie a day. Or whenever I fucking feel like it.
Trippy. Psychedelic. Far out. Bizarre. Besides being words one would use to describe a Captain Beefheart concert, they also perfectly describe this long lost gem of the 70’s. Now, before we get into the plot and before I start my long winded preamble that tentatively connects to the film, I have to issue a warning. I’m not into the whole “trigger warning” bullshit which feels like an entire generation is using to molly coddle people who can’t handle shit that’s too real but I understand people who don’t like being reminded of traumatic events such as rape. It’s a terrible thing that no one should have to relive or be reminded of but having said that, there’s no way I can adequately review this film without discussing rape at length. The entire film is about rape. If just mentioning the word rape or seeing suggestive material is triggering to you, I suggest you skip this review and stay far away from the film.
Belladonna of Sadness is based on the 1862 French novel La Sorciére or Satanism and Witchcraft as it’s known in the states. It was written as a certain protest/empowering manifesto that condemned the barbaric European practices while also trying to uplift the spirits of the common man. The French didn’t have much going on, so much like an angry teenager who’s parents “just don’t get it”, they turned to the dark Lord Satan. Paganism and witchcraft were literally the only respite the people had. The church certainly didn’t give a fuck and the Europeans just wants the Serfs to either fuck off or die.
The French people found a practice that was the exact opposite of the church’s believes. The church helped the sick and dying with prayers and promises of a better place, while witchcraft offered painkillers and ointments derived from nature. It was a practice that gave the people not only hope but at the very least a practical solution to their problems. I can’t speak on whether the practices or remedies offered any true help but I can certainly say they definitely didn’t hurt either. I’ll take some magical berries that might fix my gout over prayers any goddamn day of the week. Plus Black Phillip is way fucking cooler than that ol’ Jewish wizard.
I’m getting off topic and I guess I gotta give another trigger warning, don’t I?
The views and opinions of Sailor Monsoon on the topic of Christianity or any other magical fairytale religions do not necessarily represent those at Filmexodus or any of their non existent subsidiaries.
Ok, where was I? Oh yeah, Satan. Not only did witchcraft offer practices to help the suffering and avenues in which to, or at the very least, give the illusion to, empowering the downtrodden, it greatly improved the conditions of the female population. This may come as a shock to some of you but women haven’t always been treated great throughout history. I know that sounds like a load of balderdash but unfortunately, it’s true.
Not only was life in the late 1800’s incredibly sucky for a number of reasons, it was especially sucky if you were a woman. Not to keep beating that drum but the majority of the hardships they endured were actually from the church itself. Because the author was a fervent feminist, the novel also served to emancipate women from the oppression they suffered from the church.
Witchcraft. Evil churches. Oppressed women.
I think it’s time to talk about Belladonna of Sadness.
The film starts where every animated fairy tale ends, at the wedding of our two leads. It skips right over the “meet cute” and the wooing stage and gets right to the “happily ever after.” Except, as I mentioned previously, this film is based on a book about an oppressed woman, so the happiness is extremely short lived.
Not but five seconds after* they exchange vows does the queen realize that she’s no longer the hottest piece of ass in the kingdom (them queens and their egos. Amirite?), but comes to her senses, decides to be reasonable and lets the happy couple leave.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. No, instead of the happy ending promised to us by Disney, the film takes a hard left turn. The queen decides that the groom doesn’t deserve the most beautiful woman in the castle and that her very looks were an affront to the king. She convinces him that, instead of locking her away in a dungeon, that the entire kingdom should participate in destroying her beauty.
So, not even five minutes into the film does the main character get savagely gang raped by almost everyone in the village. At least I spit on your grave built up to it, damn.
She and her husband run away back to their hut where he just wants to forget about the whole thing. He can’t process what happened, so he just wants to pretend it never did. This doesn’t exactly sit well with Jeanne, so she waits till he goes to sleep to run away.
She immediately runs into the devil who says he’ll give her the power of revenge but at a price. I’m not 100% sure that there’s even a bargain or if he just rapes her and then gives her the power but either way, she gets raped again.
But true to his word, shit starts to look great for her. Her husband gets a prestige job as a tax collector and they’re climbing to the top of the upper echelon of nobility. Cue that beautiful Disney music.
Until the queen declares her a witch and the entire town turns on her. Again.
This all happens in the first 20 fucking minutes of the film. I’m not going to go into what happens after she’s declared a witch, but suffice it to say, the film never stops being as crazy as humanly possible for even a second.
The irony behind the extremely controversial story, is beyond the ugliness of the subject matter, lies one of the most gorgeous looking animated films in existence. It’s beautifully hand drawn with water color painted backgrounds. Because every frame was meticulously hand drawn and painted, the animation is slightly stilted. It doesn’t flow like a typical animated film, more like a series of paintings that occasionally move. It’s jarring at first but you get used to the style.
Belladonna of Sadness is a wholly original masterwork that exists solely in its own unique bubble. There is no other film that looks like it or takes the chances it takes. It is a shame that it wasn’t available outside of Japan till 2015, when it finally got a home video release.
This film is a masterpiece and if you’re not easily offended, I highly recommend you check it out.
Fun fact: the director of this Eiichi Yamamoto, also created Kimba the white lion. The anime that “influenced” the Lion King. I just think it’s fun to think of the guy who created the Japanese Lion King directing a film that’s arguably more hardcore than I Spit on your grave and Last house on the Left combined.
*that was the 666 word in this review. Hail Satan.
Once again the views and opinions of Sailor Monsoon on the topic of “Hailing Satan” do not necessarily represent those at Filmexodus or any of their non existent subsidiaries.