Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Trial of Danton

Last night I was watching Danton starring a weirdly young looking Gerad Depardieu. I was struck by its portrayal of a perverted judicial process being used to political ends - the resigned Danton, author of the machine that was to destroy him railing until he was hoarse, desperate for the people to rally to him against the terror of the committee of public safety and the scheming Robespierre.

The French revolution substituted judicial relations for political (and therefore personal) relations - the film shows the strain on the former friends as the decision to go through with the trial comes before them.

Robespierre observes that their processes are not justice, but necessity - he persuades the reluctant committee of public safety that they have no choice but to go on with a trial in which they are damned if they do and if they don't. The iron weight of procedure is deployed with a deft and controlling hand, and ignored when it goes against them (when they can't find enough men to pack the Jury, they pick a smaller jury).

In the film, Danton's fall is produced by his expectation of sympathy, as against the rules of the rulers.

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