Danton (1983 film)


Danton (1983 film)
Danton
Directed by Andrzej Wajda
Written by Jean-Claude Carrière
Jacek Gasiorowski
Starring Gérard Depardieu
Anne Alvaro
Release date(s) 12 January 1983 (1983-01-12) (France)
31 January 1983 (1983-01-31) (Poland)
Running time 136 minutes
Country France
Poland
West Germany
Language French

Danton (French pronunciation: [dɑ̃tɔ̃]) is a 1983 French language film depicting the last months of Georges Danton, one of the leaders of the French Revolution. It is an adaptation of the Polish play The Danton Case by Stanislawa Przybyszewska.

The film stars Gérard Depardieu in the title role with Anne Alvaro as Eleonore Duplay. It was directed by the Polish director Andrzej Wajda and was an international co-production between companies in France, Poland and West Germany. All supporters of Danton (with the exception of Bourdon) are played by French actors, while Robespierre's allies are played by Poles. The film draws parallels between the Reign of Terror after the French Revolution and the situation in contemporary Poland, in which the Solidarity movement was struggling against the oppression of the Soviet-backed Polish government.[1]

Contents

Plot

The movie Danton opens in the spring of 1794, when the Reign of Terror was in full swing. On the borders of Paris, any vehicles entering Paris, including Danton, who has just ridden in, are being searched. As he rides through Paris, we are given grim reminders of the conditions of the Revolution: people are still cold and hungry and the shining guillotine is on display for all to see. Robespierre, on the other hand, is sick in his bed. His landlady's daughter, Eleonore Duplay, attempts to comfort him, but is unable to. Her nephew, whom she is taking care of, is meanwhile being made to memorize lines from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. Back in the streets of Paris, starving lines of people, waiting for bread, discuss the possible reasons for the lack of it. Whether or not it is an enemy plot, the people do know that they are hungry, and that hunger leads to revolt. Once the bread store actually opens, and they finally begin to receive their bread, they are distracted by their other source of faith and hope in life: Danton. As Robespierre is watching, Danton is swarmed by a mob of supporters and fans, who all cry out for help. Robespierre, in his flat, observes all this as Danton’s latest publication is read out to him, and orders Danton’s printing press, and his works, to be destroyed. The reason for this is because Danton’s latest work is against the current stage of the revolution. Camille Desmoulins does his best to protect the shop, but he is ultimately defenseless against the thugs.

All the while that the shop is being ruined, Robespierre is having his wig fluffed, his powder applied, and shaved. Robespierre’s friend Saint-Just comes in, and urges him to have Danton guillotined, but Robespierre resists. Later, when Robespierre meets with the other members of the Committee of Public Safety, they push the same point. Robespierre resists for multiple reasons: 1, if Danton were to be executed, the bourgeoisie would turn against Robespierre. 2, Danton is loved by the common man, for his works and triumphs such as when he removed the monarchy from power on August 10, the Champ de Mars Massacre, and his newspaper is read by the common people. 3, Danton is a friend and old colleague of Robespierre, and doesn’t want to execute him. Before the National Convention commences for the day, Danton’s supporters warn him that Robespierre is planning on having him jailed. Danton, however, is positive that his newspaper and the support of the people will prevent anything like that from ever happening. All of his supporters urge him to strike now and take power, but he resists. That day, at the convention, one of Danton’s supporters, Bourdon, makes a speech against Heron and his secret police (a central part of Robespierre’s regime), and has Heron jailed and executed.

That night, Danton and Robespierre have dinner together. Danton puts much work into setting the meal, but Robespierre refuses to drink or eat. Then, their discussion begins. Robespierre wants Danton to join his cause and stop fighting because he does not want to be forced to have Danton executed. Danton simply drinks until he passes out, and refuses Robespierre’s advances. Next, Robespierre goes to Camille Desmoulin’s house, where Camille entirely ignores Robespierre. Robespierre tries to convince Camille that Danton is exploiting him, but he is again ignored. His wife begs Robespierre to stay and talk sense into her husband because she wants him to live, but Robespierre can do nothing. With no other options, Robespierre has Lacrois, Phillipeaux, Desmoulins, Danton and other supporters arrested and jailed in the Luxembourg jail, after having the warrant signed by the Committee of Public Safety. Although Danton has the power to raise up a force and resist, he doesn’t because he does not want any more bloodshed. The man who arrests Danton is scared of him, and Danton has to practically drag him along.

While Danton waits in custody, Robespierre plans out his trial. Only seven jurors are to be used, which is against the law, but Robespierre can only ensure seven men who will find Danton guilty. Danton has given up on the Revolution and on the people. At the trial, Danton consistently breaks the order by speaking out of turn. The people are still in support of him, and the head of the trial feels bad about murdering this innocent man. “I’m not your executioner!” he says to Robespierre, who replies “You’re the public’s executioner.” After a few days of injustice, a decree is issued that if anyone speaks out of turn again, which Danton has done repeatedly, they will be thrown out of the court. Within minutes, the entire accused team has been thrown out, and the verdict of guilty is read. The day before his execution, Danton is depressed. Not due to his death, but due to the fact that he feels that he failed the people. “Without me, everything will fall” he says to himself. As each of their hair is cut, they all hang their heads, not only exposing their neck, as if to be chopped off, but also in an air of defeat. When Robespierre finally hears of Danton’s death, he turns ghostly pale, and realizes how he has violated liberty, and the goals of the revolution. His mistress’s nephew, now fully practiced, is finally sent in to recite. As he reads off the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, Robespierre is fully brought to the reality of what he has done.

Cast

References

  1. ^ Liner notes on the Criterion Collection DVD of the film.

External links


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