Andrzej Wajda’s film starring Gerard Depardieu as the earthy revolutionary Danton may render its hero slightly more noble than he was in history. But that’s a quibble; the film is an excellent, stirring account of how the revolution’s ideals slipped away into terror, and works particularly well as a character study of Danton and Maximilien Robespierre, the architect of the Terror.
The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (aka Marat/Sade)
With the Marquis as their nihilist guide, the mental patients at a French asylum enact an assassination story from the Revolution that has since passed into the Napoleonic era. This game-changing play by Peter Weiss is a brutal, meta look at the revolution, and at larger themes of power, violence, sanity, and art.
The Scarlet Pimpernel
Representing a much sillier and more conservative side of French Revolutionary pop culture, Baroness Emma Orczy wrote a play and series of adventure stories about a foppish British aristocrat by day who turns into a rescuing avenger by night, stealing his French brethren away from the guillotine. Her hero’s masked crusading set the stage for a number of superheroes, not to mention a movie, a musical, and a pop culture legacy.
A Place of Greater Safety
We know from Wolf Hall that Hillary Mantel can weave a tale of political intrigue and brutality into a story that has an intimate feeling. In this, her novel of the revolution’s major figures — Robespierre, Danton, et al. — the novelist traces their lives from childhood to their adulthood as enforcers of the new regime.