The final conversation between Camille Desmoulins and Maximilien Robespierre before the former’s arrest as depicted in the 1982 film Danton.
GAY AS IN LIKE ONE SIDED AS FUCK AND AWKWARD AND MISGUIDED AS FUCK; AND ALL OH ROBESPIERRE IS SO TWISTED AND UNNATURAL OOOO; BUT NONETHELESS; GAAAAY;
Yup! And lest someone suspect that this is just a tumblr yaoi fangil speaking, I point out that Robespierre’s sexuality is delicately portrayed by the director; we are supposed to sense his attraction to men in contrast with his deep aversion to women. He jumps whenever Éléonore Duplay, his alleged fiancé, approaches but is the opposite with men like Desmoulins, as you can see above.
All characters who are not of the Indulgent faction manifest some degree of ‘perversity’ or departure from what Wajda presumably believes to be the rugged natural flow of humanity. Couthon’s paralysis, I think, it is deliberately portrayed as grotesque. Collot’s face is splashed with make-up. Éléonore Duplay, while not a political figure herself, is deeply connected to Robespierrist mythos: and so even she is “unnatural” displaying masculine traits in spite of her “feminine” form.
Unfortunately this is not a case of acceptable representation. Robespierre’s homosexuality is certainly meant to repel us as an unnatural deviation, and the “perversion” of his entourage is meant to be synonymous with the unnatural state of the Jacobin Regime - and in contrast with the rugged, natural, humanity of Danton, the pinnacle of masculinity.
Florence Gauthier discussed this better than I ever could, unfortunately I’ve only ever found snippets of her commentary on the Internet, and that in French. Here are some links I reblogged from Estella a few months ago:
I couldn’t agree more.
To be a man is to be functionally heterosexual— as in, actively sleeping with women. In this specific movie, Robespierre fails to fulfill those expectations by not engaging with women and, instead, engaging with men. The example you brought up with comparing the way Robespierre interacts with Éléonore versus Camille exemplifies that perfectly. How can Robespierre effectively lead men toward a better society when his sexuality is so ‘dysfunctional’ and works in opposition with what is considered being a functional, good citizen (being with the opposite sex, children, etc). Ugh. I feel you.
Anyway there’s this cool book where the author also hits this point home. The relevant pages are 162-164, here’s a direct link to page 162!
Also, it’s kinda funny that Robespierre’s (in this movie) increased concern/bonding with men serves to show how ~backwards~ he has distorted the Revolution from a better & more rightful course. It’s funny when you consider how intensely homosocial that time period was.
(For anybody reading who doesn’t maybe know what that means, homosociality describes same-sex relationships that aren’t (I should add the word ’necessarily’ here, but that’s my thought) sexual/romantic— so like friendship, etc. Eve Sedgewick wrote on this in Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, arguing that much of Western society is built on a foundation of a “male dominated kinship system”, and that society is a system of power established by men with the interests of men in mind.)
Anyway back to Frev. In reality people were pretty into their male-bonding so I doubt Wajda’s Robespierre would be alone in that, haha. I mean for example, Saint-Just wrote in his Fragments (‘Fragments sur les institutions républicaines’) that once a man turns twenty-one he should declare who his friends are (and do so again and again every year), that men who don’t have friends or believe in friends should be banished, AND that friends who remain close for life should be BASICALLY BURIED TOGETHER. Side note thanks lajacobine for clueing me in on the in the same grave/tomb part.
Here, I’ve bolded the parts I was referencing. This selection is from the sixth fragment titled ‘Quelques institutions civiles et morales’, under subheading ‘2. des affections’:
Tout homme âgé de vingt et un ans est tenu de déclarer dans le temple quels sont ses amis. Cette déclaration doit être renouvelée, tous les ans, pendant le mois de ventôse.
Si un homme quitte un ami, il est tenu d’en expliquer les motifs devant le peuple dans les temples, sur l’appel d’un citoyen ou du plus vieux ; s’il le refuse, il est banni.
Les amis ne peuvent écrire leurs engagements ; ils ne peuvent plaider entre eux.
Les amis sont placés les uns près des autres dans les combats.
Ceux qui sont restés unis toute leur vie sont renfermés dans le même tombeau.
Les amis porteront le deuil l’un de l’autre.
Le peuple élira les tuteurs des enfants parmi les amis de leur père.
Si un homme commet un crime, ses amis sont bannis.
Les amis creusent la tombe, préparent les obsèques l’un de l’autre ; ils sèment les fleurs avec les enfants sur la sépulture.
Celui qui dit qu’il ne croit pas à l’amitié, ou qui n’a point d’amis, est banni.
Un homme convaincu d’ingratitude est banni.
So to conclude this very tangential tirade, I would like to say that this screencap of Star’s feels very relevant right now: