Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
France/Poland, 1983. Gaumont, TF1 Films Production, S.F.P.C., T.M., Ministère de la Culture, Film Polski, Les Films du Losange, Zespól Filmowy “X”. Screenplay by Jean-Claude Carriere, in collaboration with Andrzej Wajda, Agnieszka Holland, Boleslaw Michalek, Jacek Gasiorowski, based on the play L’Affair Danton/Sprawa Dantona by Stanislawa Przybyszewska. Cinematography by Igor Luther. Produced by Margaret Menegoz, Barbara Pec-Slesicka. Music by Jean Prodromides. Production Design by Allan Starski. Costume Design by Yvonne Sassinot de Nesle. Film Editing by Halina Prugar-Ketling. New York Film Critics Awards 1983.
With the revolution having fully transformed France, the country still finds itself in massive upheaval. Robespierre’s government has initiated the terrors, executing anyone considered even slightly in opposition to the new order, and Danton (Gerard Depardieu) has become the leading voice of disagreement. Despite having been in support of the guillotine-happy regime in the past, Danton believes that no good can come from being so relentlessly unforgiving of dissent and decides to go head to head with Robespierre, only to find himself in a heated discussion that, as it progresses, looks more and more like it will mean the end for him as well. Andrzej Wajda, one of the most intelligent filmmakers in cinema history, may have overstepped the mark with this literate adaptation of Stanislawa Przybyszewska’s play. In wanting to use the French Revolution as an analogy for the political upheavals he himself was taking part in as an outspoken opponent of the existing Polish regime, he places a very heavy hand on allegory and much less effort on entertaining his viewer. Many conversations go on and on about ideas and opinions but never really reach a satisfying emotional boil; it’s as if Man Of Iron didn’t have the effect he intended and he felt the need to get more strident. Having Polish actors play the unwavering conservatives is a viciously clever conceit on the director’s part, but having them badly dubbed by French actors makes for an impossibly distancing effect when viewing their scenes. Still, it does feature Depardieu in one of his finest performances, his energy never flagging for a second as he spreads his passion all over the screen like a big, messy brush; for his performance, and for a few incredible sequences involving large, beautifully created period set pieces, the film is worthwhile and memorable.