Movie Magazine International

Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life

USA - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

I don't know that a survey has been taken of how many people became architects because they read Ayn Rand's novel, "The Fountainhead," or saw the film based on it, but it's hard to find an architect who hasn't at least heard of it. Almost 20 years after her death, Rand's books, which also include "Atlas Shrugged" and "We the Living," continue to sell over 100,000 copies a year. And they're not light reading. They preach uncompromising individualism and free-market capitalism that makes Hong Kong look like a planned economy.

The early part of "Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life" explain how Rand came to that philosophy. Her prosperous merchant family was persecuted by the bolsheviks in their native Russia. In the midst of the political turmoil of her childhood, Rand took refuge in adventure stories and American movies. America became for her, the ideal country, peopled with rugged individualists making their way in a free society.

This part of the documentary is full of revealing excerpts from her letters and diaries in which she dreams of a life away from the Soviet Union and her boundless joy when she finally arrives as an ÈmigrÈ in New York. Equally fascinating is the series of coincidences that brought her to the attention of Cecil B. DeMille and started her on her career in Hollywood.

As the documentary progresses, though, the most widely read social and economic philosopher of our time becomes a more enigmatic and distant figure, despite clips of the many TV appearances she made towards the end of her life. The facts of that life continue to be told in an orderly fashion, but a veil is firmly drawn over her inner life. It's frustrating.

All the talking heads discussing her life and her work have nothing but praise for her. I find it hard to believe that such an opinionated and passionate person did not tick off some people in her time. A more balanced approach would have created a better picture. A few negative facts do creep into the the narrative, such as Rand's appearance as a friendly witness before that icon on conformity, the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, but are glossed over as inconsequential.

"Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life" is the perfect film for Rand's disciples, but only a place to start for everyone else.

© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 4/29/98

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