Tuesday, June 24

Belladonna of Sadness at the East End Film Festival

Founded in 2000, the East End Film Festival is now one of the UK’s largest film festivals. Showcasing a varied programme of international premiers, free pop-up screenings and interactive live events, EEFF works in partnership with organisations such as Amnesty International UK, World Pride and Film London. 

This Summer EEFF screened the 1973 cult classic Belladonna of Sadness alongside a fresh, electric soundtrack courtesy of Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs at Red Gallery, just off Great Eastern Street in London's east end. The colourful graffiti adorning the outside of the building continues inside, crawling up the stairs and through to the main gallery. Once inside we were lead downstairs into a blue-lit room, where a large projector had been erected in front of a curtain which hid the band from sight. We took our seats and before long the score struck.

As soon as the film begins, it is clear that Belladonna of Sadness is a unique animation, mainly in the sense that so few scenes are actually animated. The majority of the film scans across still, elegantly drawn frames with little or no movement at all. The story is set in 14th century France, but the artwork is closer to 70s California, with bleeding watercolours and psychedelic imagery. Behind the screen, Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs electrify the soundboards with synth symphonies that fit the movie perfectly; having never seen the film before, I couldn't imagine it ever sounding any different or any better.

Belladonna is an adaptation of La Sorcière, an 1862 novel discussing Satanism and witchcraft in the middle ages. Both the book and the film tell the story of a witch who suffers horribly at the hands of the church, turning her from a chaste and pure woman to the bride of Satan, as she finds solace and safety in the practice of witchcraft. The powerful imagery of the film coupled with a perfect live soundtrack made Belladonna of Sadness an instant favourite; a resounding success for the East End Film Festival. 

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