Mar 8, 2009

15th March 2009 ; Wajda's DANTON

A film by Andrzej  Wajda
Country : France
French with English sub titles
Runtime : 136 min
15th March 2009  ; 5.45 pm
Ashwin Hospital Auditorium
Call 94430 39630

The two poles of the French Revolution were the passionate idealism of the republic and the utter finality of the guillotine. Andrzej  Wajda opens with the prescient image of Danton, eyeing up the execution device and then throws us into the key events with which he concluded his life. George Jacques Danton was the French revolutionary leader who eventually found himself at odds with one time ally Maximilien Robespierre. 

It’s this relationship which Wajda focuses on most fully, thereby pitching Danton as a kind of battle between the two. On one side we have Robespierre (here played by Polish actor Wojciech Pszoniak), the man of the Revolution; on the other Danton, the man of the people. And so the film bounces back and forth between them as their rivalry is divulged and their hatred for/fear of each other is revealed. Danton is essentially a political thriller made up, as it is, from back room whispers and clandestine meetings, each of which tightens the screws a little further as Danton progresses ever closer to his death. Indeed, as we move from his return to his execution, via his imprisonment and trial, the intensity grows just as it would in any given example of the genre.
Danton is played by Gerard Depardieu, that large, proletarian French actor who is so useful in roles where high-flown emotions need some sort of grounding. Robespierre is played by a Polish actor, Wojciech Pszoniak, as a self-obsessed hypochondriac whose political strategy seems largely determined by his need to make his headaches go away. 
Wajda's camera moves through 18th century Paris with complete familiarity. He fills the city with the poor, with street people, with crooks and prostitutes and inflamed rabble, and there is always the sense of those crowds pressing outside as the senate meets. And then he shows Danton and Robespierre, each perfectly aware of the other's motives and of the possibility of the guillotine, conducting an intellectual duel. The scene of the great confrontation between the two of them is so well acted and directed that, for the first time in any movie about the French Revolution, one is  listening to people and not speeches.
(Source : Internet)
Andrzej Wajda

Andrzej Wajda (born March 6, 1926 in Suwałki) is a Polish film director. Laureate of an honorary Oscar, he is one of the most prominent members of the Polish Film School.

A major figure of world and Eastern European cinema after World War II, Wajda has made his reputation as a sensitive and uncompromising chronicler of his country's political and social evolution. The son of a Polish cavalry officer who was killed by the Soviets in 1940, Wajda fought in the Home Army against the Germans when he was still a teenager. After the war, he studied to be a painter at Kraków's Academy of Fine Arts before entering the Łódź Film School.

On the heels of his apprenticeship to director Aleksander Ford, Wajda was given the opportunity to direct his own film. With A Generation (1955), the first-time director poured out his disillusionment over jingoism, using as his alter ego a young, James Dean-style antihero played by Zbigniew Cybulski.Wajda went on to make two more increasingly accomplished films, which further developed the antiwar theme of A Generation: Kanal (1956) and Ashes and Diamonds (1958), also starring Cybulski.

Wajda was more interested in works of allegory and symbolism, and certain symbols (such as setting fire to a glass of liquor, representing the flame of youthful idealism that was extinguished by the war) recur often in his films Wajda's later devotion to Poland's burgeoning Solidarity movement was manifested in Man of Marble (1976) and Man of Iron (1981), with Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa appearing as himself in the latter film. The director's involvement in this movement would prompt the Polish government to force Wajda's production company out of business. In 1983 he directed Danton , a film set in 1794 (Year Two) dealing with the Post-Revolutionary Terror. The film carries sharp parallels with the Post-Revolutionary period in Russia as well as with fascist Germany.

At the 2000 Academy Awards, Wajda was presented with an honorary Oscar for his numerous contributions to cinema; he subsequently donated the award to Kraków's Jagiellonian University. In February 2006, Wajda received an honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement at the Berlin International Film Festival. Wajda , well past his 80th year, is still making films .

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