Danton (1983)

Wajda’s Danton, where he cast Polish actors as Robespierre and his circle, and French actors as Danton and his circle, got heavily reviewed in the United States in the mid-1980s, mostly because it was perceived as both anti-communist, and anti-French Revolution. Yes, Danton and his circle are obvious stand ins for the democratic west, and Robespierre and his circle are obvious stand ins for the communist east. But, as with all of Wajda’s films, it’s much more complex than that. Ironically, the big, blustery French actor Gerard Depardieu, who plays Danton, is now a Russian citizen. Why? He wanted to get away from socialism (high French taxes).

Writers Without Money

Danton, a French/Polish film directed by the Polish director Andrzej Wadja opens in the spring of 1794. The Reign of Terror is reaching its crescendo. Éléonore Duplay, the landlady and probably lover of Maximilian Robespierre is teaching her nephew the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. Robespierre himself is sick in bed. Outside, on the street, a carriage pulls up alongside a line of people waiting in a breadline. Five years after the fall of the Bastille, people are still hungry. Discontent is widespread, threatening to overturn the republic and bring back the rule of the Bourbons and the aristocracy. As the hungry French citizens discuss the reasons for their misery, the doors of the carriage opens to reveal the great revolutionary Georges Danton. He’s greeted with uproarious applause. We look up to see Robespierre watching the whole scene from his window. With him now is Heron, the…

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