Top critical review
Rand's belief that America should win out over Russia
on April 1, 2001
The three stars that I gave this DVD, a gift from a special friend, an ardent student of Miss Rand and Objectivism, does not mean that I did not enjoy this documentary tremendously. I am not the most ardent fan of Miss Rand although I greatly admire the one book of hers that I read, "The Fountainhead," for its astounding literary merits. I have started reading "Atlas Shrugged," considered her masterpiece, even better than "The Fountainhead." Indeed, I am vaguely uneasy about the "cult" of personality that developed around her, and because the documentary did not address this issue, which has fascinated me, I am giving the documentary three stars only--the HBO movie with Helen Mirren, "The Passions of Ayn Rand" was more revealing about her followers, the impact of Objectivism on its followers, and how inter-connected Rand became with some of her admirers. In other words, I do not know that much more about Miss Rand because of this documentary, but I did enjoy watching it first because it was given to me by a dear friend who admires Miss Rand, and secondly because I realized how strong one person's will can be as Rand's will was so strong that it propelled her out of one world so vastly different from the one that she ended up in. Of course I am talking about Russia as her original world and America as her new world. However, I vaguely felt that there were many pieces about her life like the Center for the Advancement of Objectivism (and any impact it may have had on today's intelligensia), which should have been addressed in the documentary. I would also have liked the documentary to reveal more about her notorious and later bitter relationship with Nathaniel Branden, with whom she carried on a love affair for many years with the consent of her loving and loyal husband Frank O'Connor, a topic that the documentary almost dodged. I also would have liked to know more about Rand's more joyful relationships with people like Leonard Peikoff, her intellectual and legal heir, and Alan Greenspan, the current Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, the U.S.'s central bank. But for anyone new to Rand who wants the quick and dirty (the DVD is 144 minutes however) on the chronology of her extraordinary life, this is a pleasant and well put together narrative.
I did find extremely fascinating though, sort of as an after thought of the DVD, the whole parallelism I saw with Rand's life from when she was born in 1905 to when she died in 1983, with that of the struggle of America as it became the emergent leader of the free world at the end of the 20th Century. The America that Rand loved and abandoned Russia for, and which she extolled for its egoism and value of the individual will, became the triumphant "winner" in the great experiment of free market and democracy versus altruism (that of sacrificing individualism for the good of the masses), collectivism and communism. It is sad that Rand was not alive in 1989, just six years after her death, to see the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Rand would have enjoyed seeing that which she said should happen: that rationalism of man should win out over the irrationalism of man, and that rationalism is choosing that which is good for the individual, and that to her, America represented the greatest achievement of the rational man and triumph of individualism.
One more thing: Rand said that the self should not exist before work. I take this to heart as I learned how disciplined she was about her writing. As an aspiring writer, I have to realize that the self should not exist, that comes later. First comes work. There can only be work. Work, work, work, she said, which means, write, write, write to me as it was to her. This, I take as a lesson, from the documentary.