Ben’s review published on Letterboxd:
I think this film really needs to learn what the word subtlety means because some things are a bit too obvious. And by a bit too obvious I mean the devil is a penis, the warmongering tyrant's head consists of a skull and crossbones and a vagina is represented as a flower.
Apart from the lack of any kind of nuance, the film feels completely against what the supposed message is. There are long and objectifying shots of Jeanne that linger in a creepy and perverse manor. Her empowerment comes only when the devil (A LITERAL PENIS) rapes her. The majority of the film preceding Jeanne's eventual """"empowerment""" sees her get raped multiple times by various people, beaten by her husband and chased down by dogs, villagers etc. Now I get that this was done to show the suffering that women receive at the hands of men but this was done in a ridiculously gratuitous manor, that seemed to drone on only to pad out the runtime. Also, for the first 45 or so minutes Jeanne is completely victim to the male gaze (especially during the rape scenes which is very disgusting).
For me, any potential feminist and empowering message that could be taken from the film was lost through all of these things. The film overall was just very disappointing as when I read something being classified as a feminist animation with psychedelic art, I immediately add it to my watchlist about 400 times. At least one part of that held up. The visuals were indeed great and genuinely beautiful at points. However, when your film comes across as so toxic and repulsive it's really hard to appreciate the, admittedly, beautiful visuals.
Also, not going to say much on this because, I don't really know how to comment due to its ridiculousness, but the ending is genuinely awful and laughably shoved in at the last minute.
I'm going to definitely read some feminist takes on this written by women to see where I've maybe misread certain elements. But, at the moment, Belladonna of Sadness comes across as a film that sounds good on paper but when left to a man completely comes out tainted by the male gaze.