Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life

on February 13, 1998 by Pat Kramer
"Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life" provides viewers with an enriching historical perspective of the life and times of best-selling author Ayn (pronounced EYE-in) Rand of "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged." In this vivid film, writer/director/producer Michael Paxton has studiously assembled a montage of Rand's life, loves and work via stock footage, rare photos, taped interviews, film clips, and even rare footage of her testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Despite the fact that Paxton never met the author, his film breathes life into the woman, who is commonly regarded as one of the most controversial and provocative writers of this century.
The film begins with Rand's birth in Russia as Alyssa Rosenbaum, who even as a child demonstrated a profound sensitivity to the world around her. By the time she was a young adult, Rosenbaum was already struggling with her need for self-expression, despite the heavily restrictive politics before and after the Russian Revolution. When the opportunity arose for her to take a six-month hiatus in America, she developed a new love for the freedom her host country offered. Rand's pluck and fortitude yielded a meeting with director Cecil B. DeMille; before her six months were up, she married silent film actor Frank O'Connor, beginning what was to become a celebrated career as a screenwriter and novelist.
"Ayn Rand" is a joyous movie, although its subject matter at times is dark. Through the use of music, live and still shots with Rand and interviews with some of her closest friends, Paxton successfully brings to life a complex woman whose philosophy of objectivism (an atheistic worldview in which human beings are responsible for their own happiness and fate) was both her greatest asset and worst curse.
In Rand's novels, it is the human spirit that is always fighting to prevail against a backdrop of repression. Likewise, in Rand's life, that theme often repeats itself, as Paxton portrays Rand's undying strength of character as the film's dominant theme. Her eyes blazing with self-assurance, the diminutive Rand fearlessly espouses her views on politics and life, despite knowing that it would cause great difficulty for her in both her personal and professional lives. "Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life" is a testament to her. In explaining the person behind the great novels, the film conveys her sense of life and establishes her as one of the greatest visionaries of her time. Narrated by Sharon Gless. Directed, written and produced by Michael Paxton. A Strand release. Documentary. Running time: 121 min. Screened at Telluride.
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