Danton

"Excellent"

Danton Review


Long before we arrive at the time and place where Andrzej Wajda's captivating Danton takes place, democracy itself had failed. Has it gotten better since the days of guillotines and powdered wigs? The answer is muddled, but behind it all still lurks the fear of that blade, its finality and the power that gives whoever holds the rope from which it hangs.

Georges Danton, the titular Parisian political firebrand who was put under the blade in April 1794, is played here by the incomparable Gérard Depardieu, and it may very well be one of the mighty, imposing actor's best performances. Danton returns to Paris to decry the Reign of Terror that, under the hand of the Revolution, had claimed countless lives and allowed the Committees to continue to do what they want without bowing to scrutiny or criticism. Instead, rather quickly, the one-time revolutionist was jailed along with several other politicians and accused of trying to bring down the Revolution.

Equally in focus is his erstwhile compatriot Robespierre, who is played by the great Polish actor Wojciech Pszoniak. Robespierre was as instrumental in the Revolution as Danton, but he was the one ultimately given the power to lead when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette fell victim to the guillotine. As Pszoniak plays him and as the numerous screenwriters who worked on the script, including Wajda himself and the great Jean-Claude Carriere, envision him, Robespierre is the very model of power gone mad with fear, cursing "the people" as he lays in his sickbed in the film's final measures.

Upon its release, the film was both acclaimed and admonished. Many viewed Danton as Wajda's great allegory to Jaruzelski's imposing of martial law in Poland in the winter of 1981 in the hopes of suppressing the Solidarity movement, a subject the director would deal with head-on in Man of Iron. Wajda, at the time, refuted any claims that he made the film with that in mind, but it is now impossible not to see Danton as a more universal showcase for the pitfalls of democracy and the dangers inherent in trying to control people.

Desmoulins, a newspaper owner and close friend of both Danton and Robespierre, is played by Patrice Chéreau. Perhaps on purpose, Wajda never allows us to connect with the public, and Desmoulins is obviously their proxy, forever complaining about Danton yet following him with every stride. It has been argued, quite rightly, that Wajda gets the facts wrong -- an observation that bolsters the allegorical implications -- on what happened in the late 18th century, but what he understands is the power of great leaders and both what they instill and what they threaten.

Danton swears that Robespierre will share his fate soon and, per usual, he was correct. The Convention rebelled against the Committees that Robespierre led that summer and he, along with most of the men who condemned Desmoulins and Danton, faced the blade. Winston Churchill famously said "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried." In its own way, Danton makes a hell of an argument for dictatorships and fascism. At least they're up front about it.

The Criterion DVD spans two discs, adding a 42-minute documentary about the film, also directed by Wajda, and an interview with him.



Danton

Facts and Figures

Run time: 136 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 12th January 1983

Distributed by: Criterion Collection

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Barbara Pec-Slesicka

Starring: as Danton, Lucie Mannheim as Louise Gély, Gustaf Gründgens as Robespierre, as Marat, Gustav von Wangenheim as Desmoulin, Ernst Stahl-Nachbaur as Malesherbes, Verteidiger von König Ludwig XVI.

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.