Sunday, June 23, 2013

Danton (1982)

Danton / Danton. FR/PL 1982. PC: Les Films du Losange (Paris) and Zespoly Filmowe: Zespol X (Warsaw) - for Gaumont, TF1 Films, SFPC, and TM – supported by Ministère de la Culture and Film Polski. P: Margaret Ménégoz ja Barbara Pec-Slesicka. D: Andrzej Wajda. SC: Jean-Claude Carrière – based on the play Afera Dantona / L'Affaire Danton (1929) by Stanislawa Przybyszewska. DP: Igor Luther - colour - 1,66:1. M: Jean Prodromides. AD: Allan Starski, Gilles Vaster. ED: Halina Prugar-Ketling. C: Gérard Depardieu (Georges Danton), Wojciech Pszoniak (Maximilien de Robespierre), Anne Alvaro (Eléonore), Roland Blanche (Lacroix), Patrice Chereau (Camille Desmoulins), Emmanuelle Debever (Louison), Krzysztof Globisz (Amar), Ronald Guttman (Herman), Gérard Hardy (Tallien), Tadeusz Huk (Couthon), Stéphane Jobert (Panis) Marian Kociniak (Lindet), Marek Kondrat (Barère de Vieuzac), Boguslaw Linda (Saint Just), Alain Mace (Héron), Bernard Maitre (Legendre), Lucien Melki (Fabre D’Eglantine), Serge Merlin (Philippeaux), Erwin Nowiaszak (Collot d’Herbois), Leonard Pietraszak (Carnot), Roger Planchon (Fouquier-Tinville), Angel Sedgwick (Eléonore's brother), Andrzej Seweryn (Bourdon), Franciszek Starowieyski (David), Jerzy Trela (Billaud-Varenne), Jacques Villeret (Westermann), Angela Winkler (Lucile Desmoulins), Jean-Loup Wolff (Hérault de Seychelles), Czeslaw Wollejko (Vadier), Wladimir Yordanoff (vartiopäällikkö), Malgorzata Zajaczkowska (palvelijatar), Szymon Zaleski (Lebas). Helsinki premiere 2.3.1984 Diana, released by Diana-Filmi with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Satu Laaksonen / Maya Vanni – tv: 15.7.1989 Yle TV2 – VET 91262 – K12 – 3760 m / 136 min. A vintage KAVA print deposited by Diana-Filmi screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Gérard Depardieu), 23 June 2013

Wikipedia synopsis: "The film begins in the spring of 1794, when the Reign of Terror was in full swing. On the borders of Paris, any vehicles entering Paris, including the carriage of Danton, who has just ridden in, are being searched. Robespierre, meanwhile, is sick in his bed. His landlady's daughter, Éléonore 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, is visited by Heron, the chief of the secret police, and instructs him to destroy the print shop of Camille Desmoulins, who is publishing pro-Dantonist circulars."

"As the shop is being attacked, Robespierre is having his wig powdered. His friend Saint-Just comes in, and urges him to have Danton guillotined, but Robespierre ignores him. Later, when Robespierre meets with the other members of the Committee of Public Safety, they push the same point. Robespierre resists for various reasons, mainly because Danton is a brilliant and highly popular statesman and orator, but also because Danton is his personal friend. Before the National Convention commences for the day, Danton discusses with general Westermann about a coup to overthrow Robespierre and the committee, of which Danton disapproves. Danton’s closest 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."

"That night, Danton and Robespierre have dinner together. Danton puts much work into setting the meal, but Robespierre refuses to drink or eat, insisting on a serious discussion. 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. As Danton leaves the hotel, he is met by a group of armed men who turn out to be Westermann's assistants, preparing to stage a coup. Danton rebuffs Westerman's attempt to coerce him into helping. Next, Robespierre goes to Camille Desmoulin’s house, where Camille entirely ignores his presence. Robespierre tries to convince Camille that Danton is exploiting him, but he is again ignored. His wife Lucile 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, Westermann, Danton and other supporters arrested and jailed in the Luxembourg jail, after having the warrant signed by the Committee of General of General Security and 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."

"The next day at the national convention, the members are outraged by the arrest, but Robespierre simply justifies his action by stating that Danton is an enemy of the Republic, and must be tried regardless of his popularity. To save his own life, Bourdon joins Robespierre's side, deserting Danton and Desmoulin, which disgusts Lucile."

"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 judge Fouquier finds no grounds to prosecute him. The accused are kept in prison overnight and there is a solitary scene in where Danton is brought to his knees when a condemned prisoner tells him how overjoyed he is to hear that Danton, the first president of the committee, is to be executed. While Robespierre is visiting David, he is informed that Danton's charisma is interrupting the planned process of the trial, and the sentence is going nowhere. In response a decree is issued that if anyone speaks out of turn again, which Danton has done repeatedly, they will be removed from court. Within minutes, the entire accused team has been dismissed, 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. They are led off to the scaffold and guillotined. 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."

The Danton-Robespierre clash belongs to the classic conflicts of drama, most famously in Georg Büchner's Dantons Tod. Andrzej Wajda has selected as his starting-point the Polish play The Danton Affair by Stanislawa Przybyszewska. Together with Jean-Claude Carrière he changed the story to reflect better the current situation in Poland, the Walesa-Jaruzelski conflict. Frenchmen had a hard time recognizing one of the most tragic periods of their history in this interpretation. Poetic license has been taken here like in the Mozart-Salieri dramatizations.

Danton has been changed to a much nicer and gentler guy in the Wajda interpretation. Of the film adaptations I have seen the one by Dimitri Buchowetzky, based on Büchner, is certainly no more faithful to historical facts than Wajda's version, but its two holy monsters, Emil Jannings and Werner Krauss as Danton and Robespierre, may convey something more authentic about the furious figures of the French Revolution and the Great Terror.

As interpreted by Gérard Depardieu Danton is no more the unforgettable monster known in historical records, but certainly he is a commanding presence in the immortal trial at the Tribunal révolutionnaire. It is a great performance, and in this age of supporting actors Depardieu in unquestionable a leading actor who makes the world shake with the power of his voice like Danton did. Danton roars like a lion until he loses his voice. But facing the guillotine he still manages to roar: "Tu montreras ma tête au peuple, elle en vaut la peine!" "Robespierre, tu me suis! Ta maison sera rasée! On y sèmera du sel!" Depardieu is the actor to carry a role like this.

A well-made film with memorable scenes and dilemmas: - The destruction of the printing press used by Desmoulins. - The agony of opportunism with both Danton and Robespierre. - Danton comparing the revolution to Cronos which eats its own children. - The sequence at the studio of the painter David, immortalizing history. - Danton has unleashed the terror which he now wants to stop, but its too late. Robespierre wants to save the revolution, but it may no longer be possible. - The mortal agony of Robespierre is the final image of the movie. He is almost drowning in his own sweat.

The score has a special quality of creating an ominous soundscape. "La Marseillaise" is sung; not much other period music is heard.

The quality of the print: intact and complete; the visual quality is ok. Composed for 1,66, it can also be screened in full frame.

French Wikipedia:

Libertés historiques

Certains passages ne sont pas totalement véridiques sur un plan historique :

    Les images de Danton et Robespierre et leur notoriété sont quelque peu faussées.
    Le diner entre Danton et Robespierre, qui consuma leur rupture, n'aurait eu lieu.
    Le film nous montre Saint-Just signant en premier l'acte d'arrestation de Danton et Desmoulins, or il semblerait que le premier à l'avoir signé soit Billaud-Varenne.
    Les notes n'étant pas permises au procès, il est possible de s'interroger sur la fiabilité de toutes les informations s'y rapportant dans le film.
    Le ruban rouge que se met Lucille autour du cou n'aurait été en usage que dans les bals des victimes, qui n'eurent lieu qu'après la mort de Robespierre.

Les « scènes doubles »

Au-delà du général Jaruzelski, Wajda vise le stalinisme à l'œuvre dans les démocraties populaires d'Europe de l’Est et dénonce l'encadrement de leurs sociétés. Certaines scènes appellent cette double lecture, avec quelquefois des anticipations et des entorses historiques : le message à caractère politique éclipse alors la reconstitution du cours de la Révolution. Par ordre d'apparition :

    Le rationnement et le pain manquant, scène d'attente devant la boulangerie : les files d'attentes interminables sont alors fréquentes dans la Pologne des années 1980.
    Les Parisiens qui cessent de parler politique quand un membre des sections apparaît : référence directe à une population étroitement surveillée par les membres du Parti. De même, Danton prononce à un moment l'expression anachronique de « police politique » .
    L'imprimerie saccagée du Vieux Cordelier, journal de Camille Desmoulins : les militaires ont pris le contrôle de la télévision polonaise en 1981 ; plus largement, c'est l'absence des libertés (de presse, d'opinion) dans les démocraties populaires de l'Est qui est esquissée par cette scène.
    Le procès des dantonistes, arbitraire, expéditif et sans témoin : réplique des grands procès politiques et des purges staliniennes qui frappent les citoyens d'Europe de l’Est, y compris des membres en vue du Parti.
    La prison et les chiens, les visages derrière les grilles sur le chemin de l'échafaud : c'est la répression qui est représentée ici.
    Le tableau de David modifié à la demande de Robespierre, qui en fait retirer Fabre d'Églantine, l'un des accusés du procès : (doublement inexact historiquement1) référence à l'encadrement de l'art par le pouvoir en place (voir réalisme soviétique) et aux photos truquées de l'Union soviétique stalinienne sur lesquelles les militants en disgrâce sont effacés.
    La scène finale, un enfant récitant d'une voix monocorde les textes législatifs qu'on lui a fait apprendre par cœur : c'est sur cette vision pessimiste de création d'un nouvel homme révolutionnaire, ou d'embrigadement d'une jeunesse jusque dans sa mémoire, que se clôt le film de Wajda
.

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