Film Review: Danton – ‘a gripping piece of historical drama’
Polish director Andrzej Wajda’s historical epic benefits from a magnificent performance by Gerard Depardieu, a strong Carriere script and haunting score by Jean Prodromides. Depicting the events of 1793-4 it focuses on arch-rivals Danton (Depardieu) and Robespierre, played skilfully by Wojcieck Pszoniak.
The pair signify a polarity of revolutionary zeal versus the power of the people and the Mob are represented in the background to the polemics between the two politicians. These scenes of street life have real verve and veracity while the characterisation of the minor players such as Patrice Chereau as Danton’s journo friend Camille Desmoulins is equally vivid.
Depardieu’s Danton reflects both sides of his character: the philosopher and orator is contrasted against the profligate womaniser and drinker (perhaps the latter added extra appeal to the general public). While, like his adversary Robespierre, he has great trepidation about the fate of the revolution, dreading the formation of a dictatorship, the very thing the revolution set out to subvert.
This Franco-Polish production has been criticised for its lack of historical accuracy and allied to the Solidarity cause that Wajda supported. But for a gripping piece of drama and a detailed look into the minds of two great leaders, equally doomed, it is second to none. It climaxes with the inevitable executions of Danton and his accomplices set to an ear-shattering din of a score that conjures up the Terror at its most extreme. We really get to feel the loss of direction that the French Revolution took and its implications for future rebellions, seeing power itself as a corrupting force.
See Danton at Howard Assembly Room, Leeds at 3pm, 16th January 2016.