Directed by Eiichi Yamamoto (Space Battleship Yamato) and written by Yoshiyuki Fukuda (who earlier penned the screenplay for Masahiro Shinoda’s Samurai Spy), this 1973 animated oddity is both breathtakingly beautiful and profoundly disturbing. Based on a 19th century treatise on the history of witchcraft, Kanashimi no Belladonna (literally ‘Belladonna of Sadness’) was the third and final film released in Osamu Tezuka’s Animerama series. While the first two (One Thousand and One Nights, Cleopatra) are notable in their own right, Kanashimi no Belladonna (the only of the three made without Tezuka’s direct oversight) is by far the most idiosyncratic.
For his third Animerama outing Yamamoto eschewed traditional animation techniques, instead relying on lush static images that recall Aubrey Beardsley and Virginia Frances Sterrett. It’s also more violent than the other two – rape is a central theme of the film, and the fact that Yamamoto stylizes the sexualized violence has the effect of magnifying the horror rather than blunting it.
Trigger warnings aside, Kanashimi no Belladonna is a fascinating – and little known – work.
(Note: the first seven minutes or so of the linked video consists of trailers for the film. The actual movie doesn’t start until 00:07:09)