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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Video interviews with director Andrzej Wajda, screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, and Polish film critic Jerzy Plazewski
  • Wajda's Danton, a 42-minute behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the film
  • Original theatrical trailer

Danton


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Andrzej Wajda
Starring: Gerard Depardieu
1983 | 136 Minutes | Licensor: Gaumont

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #464
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: March 31, 2009
Review Date: March 15, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

Gérard Depardieu and Wojciech Pszoniak star in Andrzej Wajda's powerful, intimate depiction of the ideological clash between the earthy, man-of-the-people Georges Danton and icy Jacobin extremist Maximilien Robespierre, both key figures of the French Revolution. By drawing parallels to Polish "solidarity," a movement that was being quashed by the government as the film went into production, Wajda drags history into the present. Meticulous and fiery, Danton has been hailed as one of the greatest films ever made about the Terror.

Forum members rate this film 6.6/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterion presents another clean colour transfer in their release of Danton, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on the first dual-layer disc of this two-disc set. The image has also been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

The image is sharp, detailed and clean, presenting nothing in the way of. The print, similar to a lot of Criterion’s releases lately, is just about free of damage. Colours may be the weakest aspect of the transfer, though this more than likely has to do with the look of the film. Colours come off dull and muted, skin tones coming off fairly pale through a majority of the film. There are a few interior shots that come off bright and present sharper colours, but they’re minimal.

The look of the film does limit it in some regards, but in all the transfer presents it perfectly.

8/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film presents an adequate French Dolby Digital mono track. The film is very talkative and the dialogue sounds clean and distinct with no distortion. It looks like the Polish actors may have been dubbed over (the lips don’t match) but their dialogue still sounds natural within the track. The little bit of music that appears sounds good, coming off clean and clear and containing some range (the score is an interesting one, at times reminding me of the score that surrounded the Monolith in Kubrick’s 2001 or even the score from The Shining.) In all an above average mono track.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion has given Danton a two-disc release, making it a higher-tier release with a higher price (it has an MSRP of $39.95,) though that seems to be overkill since the supplements total just over an hour, about the same length as the supplements found on the cheaper, single-disc, Il generale Della Rovere, being released the same day as Danton.

Unfortunately there is no audio commentary. The first disc presents the film and a 3-minute theatrical trailer.

The second single-layer disc presents the remaining supplements. The big one is a 1983, 42-minute documentary on the making of the film called Wadja’s Danton. It observes the preparation of scenes (beginning with the construction of the guillotine) and then the filming of a couple of sequences, getting interviews with member of the cast and crew along the way, including Wojciech Pszoniak, Gerard Depardieu, and even Andrzej Wajda. The performers talk about their characters, there’s mention of the issues in Poland that were occurring while filming was being completed, and Depardieu talks about the French cast and crew working with the Polish cast and crew. The most interesting aspects were probably the moments where the documentary crew just lingered around the actual filming, showing us Wajda at work, grabbing his performers and putting them in place, and seeing moments where he was happy with how the scene was turning out, or the moments where he was annoyed and displeased with how a scene was turning out (which was frequent.) I liked the more fly-on-the-wall style to it and think of all of the supplements it is the most interesting one.

The remaining two supplements are interviews. The first, found under The Polish “Revolution”, is an interview with director Andrzej Wajda and Polish critic Jerzy Plazewski. Running 17-minutes, the two talk about the film and the conditions in Poland while trying to get the film made. There was the intent of having the film partially filmed in Poland and in France, but after martial came into effect in Poland it was impossible the make a film there (if more than 4 people came together it was considered an “assembly” and assemblies were outlawed) and all shooting went to France. Wajda talks about casting, having completed casting for the Polish performers and then looking for the right actor to play Danton. He got Depardieu after seeing him perform on stage and being impressed, saying that if it wasn’t for that there was no way he would have cast him. This in turn got Gaumont interested in helping with financing of the film. Wajda also talks about adapting the play, changing the focus (the original author of the play leaned more towards Robespierre while the director was more interested in Danton,) and then gets into working with his Polish/French cast and crew. It’s a nice interview packed with quite a bit, and adds on nicely to the documentary.

Finally, closing off the disc, is a 14-minute interview with screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere. He focuses primarily on adapting the stage play and working with Wajda, but also talks a bit about Poland and Europe during the 80’s and how he tried to fit that into the script (which he wrote while judging at the Cannes Film Festival.) He also talks about working with Depardieu on his character and some of the moments Depardieu worked into the film. I think I was hoping for more on the play and the changes made, but this only takes up a small part of the interview.

A rather lengthy essay by Leonard Quart is found in the included booklet, which basically summarizes everything found in the video supplements, though makes a decent read. I’ll also mention that menus on disc one differ quite a bit depending on whether your television is 16:9 or 4:3, the widescreen menu presenting animated menus while the standard menu is static.

Overall the supplements are decent and they’re all worth watching, but don’t know if they justify the second disc or the extra $10, especially when so much more could have been added, like maybe more on the French Revolution (the Reign of Terror specifically) and even the Solidarity movement in Poland, beyond the brief mentions of each found in the existing supplements. I also would have liked more on the differences between the film and the play on which it’s based. Considering what the film is based on and when it was made there seems to be a lot more that could have been included, making the supplements all the more dissatisfying.

6/10

CLOSING

When you consider that this release is two-discs and goes for the higher $39.95 you can’t help but feel underwhelmed with it, especially when one compares it to their release of Il generale Della Rovere, which is being released the same day as Danton, and is not only cheaper, but feels more thorough in covering the film and its subject matter. Despite the transfer, which does look good, I come back to the higher price, the hour’s worth of supplements, the fact there could have been more, and even the film itself, and have a hard time recommending this release. At best I’d probably only recommend it as a rental.


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