The film Danton is about a revolutionary who objects to the course his revolution, the French Revolution, has taken. Danton is played by Gerard Depardieu. Robespierre by Wojciech Pszoniak. The celebrated Polish filmmaker, Andrzej Wajda directs. It is an adaptation of Stanislawa Przybyszewska's play, The Danton Case, completed in 1929. Wajda's movie first appeared in 1983.
In an interview that he gave to the French newspaper Le Monde, Wajda denied associations between 18th-century France and 20th-century Poland. Danton is about conflict between revolutionaries and revolutions gone bad, and inappropriate associations would be Stalin as Robespierre and Trotsky as Danton.
Robespierre is the dominant figure in the revolution's Committee of Public Safety, created by the ruling legislative body. Danton was the first president of the Committee of Public Safety and a fellow hardliner in fighting the revolution's "enemies." The Committee had been given executive authority to run the government. Danton was a believer in the fury of popular passion as the revolution's source and its maintenance. But he had become critical of all the executions – what would become known as the reign of terror. And this put him outside of the faction of revolutionaries who were wielding power.
Robespierre calls on Danton at his home. They are alone together at Danton's table. Robespierre is concerned about Danton's popularity.
R: I must protect the government. They say you are plotting.
D: It's not true. I'm pure as snow.
R: Your enemies want your death.
D: You too?
R: Join us and I swear you'll be safe.
D: I'm not safe now?
Danton says that he does not approve of what the government is doing and that is his right. Robespierre says it is not his right to proclaim it. Danton replies the he can't stoop to the same level as the government.
R: You're above it?
Robespierre defends the government, saying "We fought a revolution in the name of fairness and equality. I'm the people's only defense."
D: Men shouldn't stay in power too long. You know nothing of the people. How would you know? Look at you! You don't drink. You're powdered. Swords make you faint. And they say you've never had a woman. Who are you to speak for the people.
R: What I ask is that you join us.
D: Frankly, I'd rather be executed than be an executioner.
Copyright © 2010-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved