Belladonna


Full title: Kanashimi no Belladonna

Osamu Tezuka was not directly involved in the film Belladonna, which was produced by Mushi Productions in the 1970s, but the story and animation, produced by his team at his studio, show clear influences of his style and narrative interests. For this reason it has been released in Japan in a DVD three-pack along with Tezuka's adult films, Cleopatra 2525 and Arabian Nights

 

(see link above). Because Tezuka's name is not on the film, it is not treated on the official Tezuka World web page.

The storytelling style of Belladonna is based on medieval European witchcraft legends, focusing on the parallel development of female sexual power and mystical power, and directly based on Jules Michelet's 1864 novel about Joan of Arc, La Sorciere. The treatment is not unlike that Tezuka gave the subject in the Barbara manga, written around the same time, 1973. It is a highly erotic film. Jeanne is raped on her wedding night by the local lord, and is thereafter rejected by her husband – her awakened and unsatisfied libido develops into a devilish power which leads her to develop supernatural abilities and a mystical communion with nature.

The most striking aspect of the film is its unique art style. The images are rendered in extremely beautiful detail in a style based on classic Western tarot illustrations, largely in white with colored lines and highlights, without any hint of the standard animation palette or style. In effect, the film is more like a series of watercolor paintings with moving sections which flow one into another than it is like a simulation of a realistic world. So western is the imagery, that, without the dialogue giving away its native language, a viewer would be more likely to guess that the film is the product of American 1970s experimental animation than a work of Japanese anime.

Tezuka's influence may be seen most clearly in the pivotal scenes of the film, a series of mystical sex scenes which begin with the initial rape and recur throughout the witch's development. These highly erotic sequences are not rendered literally , but as a series of abstract images, sometimes of plants or elements of nature, but more often as simple abstract shapes whose motion and interaction express the emotion and sensuality of sex without depicting any sexual organs. Readers familiar with Tezuka will immediately recognize the sexual abstracts he used in series such as Adolf, Ayako, Swallowing the Earth, Barbara and MW or the short film Memory.

    FILM DATA:
    Mushi Productions
    Director: Eiichi Yamamoto.
    Animators: Gisaboru Sugii, Shinichi Tsuji, Yasuo Maeda.
    Writers: Eiichi Yamamoto, Yoshiyuki Fukuda.
    Original Theatrical Release in 1973 (approximate)

* TezukaInEnglish.com does not condone the distribution of copyrighted videos on YouTube, but since this one is a publicity trailer and counts as advertising rather than piracy, we have made an exception in this case.

Published Oct 5, 2011 (Updated Jun 23, 2012)