Blogs > Liberty and Power > Long Overdue

Oct 13, 2009 10:03 pm

Long Overdue

The 1942 Italian film of Ayn Rand's debut novel We The Living is a gem. The novel is itself well worthwhile, even if (or especially if) you think already know all you need to know about Rand and her fiction. It's definitely underrated, very good, and interestingly different from her later fiction. Also, it's a valuable primary source on life in Bolshevik Russia. Anyway, in case you hadn't heard the story of the movie, it's pretty neat: in the early 40s, some liberty-minded Italian filmmakers decided to make the movie. Being at war with the US, they couldn't get permission from Rand, so they just did it. The fascist censors, seeing it was critical of their Russian enemies, let things go ahead, not realizing it was anti-fascist also. When they figured it out, most copies of the film were destroyed, but not all, and decades later Rand tracked it down and oversaw the initial stages of preparing it for rerelease. I first saw it in the late 80s, after seeing an article about it in the January 89 Reason, having never read any Rand. I found it extremely moving and intellectually stimulating. A few years later, I thought I should buy a copy on VHS, but DVDs were starting to become commonplace, so I held off, figuring I'd wait til it was released on DVD. And I've been waiting for 15 years. But now it's available! About time too. (HT Roderick Long, on his other blog.)

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Aeon J. Skoble - 10/15/2009

Whoops, sorry about that. Since ownership changed hands, I've been unsure of your status so you've slipped off my radar. No offense intended!

Laissez Faire Books - 10/14/2009

It is available at Laissez Faire Books as well, and at a cheaper price. Why do libertarians just ignore one of their own?

David T. Beito - 10/14/2009

I wonder if part of the blame can be laid to Rand's interference on the set. Vidor was an excellent director but the final product seems unusually melodramatic, even by the standards of the time, or even his other films.

Aeon J. Skoble - 10/14/2009

Erika Holzer disagrees, but I don't have a dog in that fight. It's a cool story even if Bradford was right, and in either case, the film is a gem. But thanks for noting the Liberty article, which I also have in print filed away somewhere.

Russell Hanneken - 10/14/2009

R. W. Bradford did some investigation and decided the film was probably never banned by the Fascists. See here:

Aeon J. Skoble - 10/14/2009

That Jan 89 article in Reason is not among their archive of online articles. But it's worth a read. If any Reason staffers are reading this, why not put it up? I still have my print copy, of course.

Aeon J. Skoble - 10/14/2009

Like David, I like the film of The Fountainhead more than most people do, but it does have its flaws. The film of We The Living is just terrific. The book and the film are highly underrated components of the Rand world.

David T. Beito - 10/14/2009

Given the fact that it was wartime Italy, the production values were lavish. This is a grade A film even by Hollywood standards. Although I have s sentimental attachment to the Fountainhead film (which has a certain memorable beauty), We Living holds up much better today.

Amy H. Sturgis - 10/14/2009

About time indeed! Good news.