Occasionally, I come across a certain kind of movie that just makes me question all my understanding of cinema and I am reminded why I love movies so much. I often avoid talking about such movies because they already are known to be modern classics or timeless masterpieces. Unfortunately, this movie is an example of art that was only appreciated to the extent of its commercial success, which was negligible. There is very little talk about Kanashimi no Belladonna and that gives me the perfect opportunity.
The biggest feast is for the eyes, in that the animation is just unlike anything I have ever seen before. Aside from the actual content, the watercolor artwork just strangely works and brings a feeling of grim like I have never seen before. The intentionally grey and faded colors just add a feel of visual misery and this suits the tone perfectly. The animation doesn’t have a lot of motion and often relies on just panning across a massive yet detailed artwork to explain a scene. And despite all of this, there are some frames that are dripping with color and are a surprising joy to watch. Anyone who loves animation and has the stomach for disturbing visuals, do not miss this movie.
The imagery itself is immensely psychedelic and graphic, especially with nudity. But all that complements the movie well and is not just for grabbing your attention. With the kind of themes in it, such imagery just pushes the material on the screen to great heights. The animation also cleverly uses visual metaphors to avoid being blunt with their graphic nudity. This reinforces how seriously they take it rather than just as bait. And all of this is complemented with great psychedelic rock music with an emphasis on bass and guitar.
The screenplay, however, has a minor problem. It’s the same problem I had with Joker (2019) in that the narrative is just hell-bent on giving the lead character pure misery. The first half of the movie is basically her going through one tragedy after another without any room to breathe. This can make the tragedies feel like plot devices rather than actual events that were supposed to have a profound impact. I would have preferred a longer and more fleshed out screenplay. But I feel the makers were aware of this which is why the second half of the movie is where the movie really shines. And considering the production surrounding the film, maybe this was the longest movie they could afford. Not to mention fleshing out a movie that has minimal character movement on screen can be very hard. Ultimately, I don’t consider this to be a great sin.
Kanashimi no Belladonna is a haunting yet mesmerizing psychedelic sexual experience that is about a lot more than what appears on the surface. It is a tragic tale about a society’s lust for power and the moral consequences of it. If you are a fan of animated movies, this absolutely deserves your attention.
Read the review by The New York Times here.