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on January 16, 2004
While an undergraduate student in the 70's, I discovered the works of Ayn Rand. As a professor of humanities and philosophy I have used her works in classrooms, where students are introduced to the enigma of Rand's philosophy.
Rand was a better novelist than she ever was a philosopher and the contradictions in her philosophy become obvious upon semi-serious reflection.
Yet, this is not to detract from her absolute popularity even to the present day. The DVD "A Sense Of Life" is a wonderful glimpse into the life of one of the 20th century's great idealists. Though eliminating some critical elements of her life that genuinely contradicted her philosophical views, the film does a fair job of sharing the story of her life in the big picture.
In the absense of reading her works, the film will have less impact that it could. There is little real analysis of her works in the film and the glossing over does not do her justice.
But, in all fairness, the film is a biographical film, not a critique of her literature. And in the sense of a biographical film it is a fair and acurate protrayal.
Though many philosophers have disagreed with her work, (one of my undergraduate phil. profs once said of her work: "If I were ever going to use Ayn Rand's books in my class, it would be a class on 'Rabid Subjectivism'"...an opinion I strongly disagree with.
I respected Ayn Rand, both as a novelist and as a thinker who tried very hard to formulate her ideas in an age that downplayed reason and critical thinking...such that Bertrand Russell was refused a teaching position in New York because of his philosophical opinions. Even Russell had his philosophical difficulties.
The film captures important scenes from Rand's interviews, though I never understood why Phil Donahue would interview Ayn Rand, as I don't consider him a critical thinker at all...But that is what we are offered.
In conclusion, the film is well worth the money and time to watch it...you may even be inclined to actually read some of her books.
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on October 14, 2002
Watching this exhaustive documentary (2:23) was a real eye opener for me. While I am conversant with her works, I was quite ignorant of the details of her life. The documentary follows Ayn from her oppressed Russian beginnings to (believe it or not) the pasteboard sets of 30s Hollywood to the intellectual circles of New York. The contrast are amazing and one can't but conclude that Any Rand lived a very fortunate life.
The commentaries are not very insightful - but only due to the exceptionally detailed information narrated by Sharon Gless. Strangely enough, one of the more dramatic events of her career; her affair with Nathaniel Branden, is glossed of in less than 15 seconds. So I recommend seeing "The Passion of Ayn Rand" for more on that story. A word to the wise: if you buy both this DVD and "The Passion of Ayn Rand", I suggest watching this one first. It will give you a more complete understanding of her background.
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on December 1, 2001
Writer, producer, and director Michael Paxton has done an amazing job of putting together an authoratative documentary on Ayn Rand's life. No wonder it received a 1998 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature. Unlike other documentaries--usually best showcased on Jerry Springer--this one is of the kind of quality that you would find (sadly only) on PBS. Sadly, PBS refuses to broadcast it. Miss Rand, a Russian immigrant who escaped Communist Russia--is too pro-American for their taste.
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on May 21, 2003
Ayn Rand once said something to the effect of, "As much as I hate to admit it, I share something with Karl Marx. He once said, 'Save me from the Marxists!' Sometimes I feel like saying 'Save me from the Randians!'"
This movie was a reverential treatment of Rand by people who loved her, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. However, I almost flipped as I watched several of them explain that Ayn dissociated from Nathaniel Branden because of "severe philosophical errors." This "philosophical error" was to end the 25-year affair that Rand orchestrated and to start dating a younger woman who was Ayn's intellectual inferior. At one time, Branden was revered as a near-god by the same people who denounced him in this film. One word from Ayn, and they all changed their tunes as if they'd never sung his praises in the first place.
Ayn once said that there was no danger of Objectivism becoming a cult, because since it championed reason and logic, its adherents would always arrive to proper conclusions through their own volition. True enough in theory, but in practice, Objectivists have simply adopted Rand's writings as a standard for truth, logic or reality notwithstanding. (They even adopt her signature punctuation error!) I admire Rand too, and I don't mean to denegrate or ridicule, but I think that modern Objectivism could use an overhaul and incorporate a little free thinking.
If Ayn were here today, I believe she would still be saying, "Save me from the Randians!"
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on January 9, 2004
Although seeing AR:ASOL on the big screen at a pre-release conference in Chicago was better, this DVD is awesome. The story of Rand is enticing, even to those who do not like her. The story was extremely well-written and the selection and handling of material was well done. I was pleasantly surprised to see the variety of materials which had been assembled for this Academy Award nominated documentary.
After meeting the director, Michael Paxton, in person, I can see why he achieved such a great film. He is as amazing a person as the film itself is on the screen.
Sitting to watch this film over and over with friends and family is an excellent use of one's time-- and time which will be enjoyed. I highly recommend this DVD to be part of any serious movie collection.
I have the framed, preserved, autographed movie poster for this DVD hanging in my office behind my desk as the focal point of the room-- that's how much I love this film.
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on January 18, 2001
I saw this movie when it was playing in Washington D.C. a few years ago. I took some friends who had no prior knowledge of what Objectivism is about. We did not know what to expect going into the movie, so we went with no expectations (good or bad). I was pleased with the movie for what it was...a movie about the Woman behind the Philosophy. I have read several of Ayn Rand's works...fiction and non-fiction and I really did not need to see a movie about Objectivism for I am familiar with it's premise and concepts. In this regard, the movie was a pleasant surprise. The movie gave insight into Ayn Rand's personality and passion, not her Philosophy.
Those wishing to find out what Objectivism is really about should read MORE of her works than just Anthem. Anthem, as is the case with many writers, is a sophmoric entry into the world of literature. I also read Anthem and found it to be a fabulous story...very inspiring and highly motivating. Paying close attention to the message in Anthem, one finds that Logan's Run, THX-1138, and many other movies are fashioned after the concepts and premise found in this book.
One reviewer was unable to fully appreciate this documentary for what it was and made snide remarks regarding this movie as well as attacking Ayn Rand, the Woman. Please do not limit yourself to this misinformed viewer's opinion. This person needs to read her works to fully appreciate what her Philisophy is all about as this movie does not delve into that subject matter enough.
Please see this movie for what it is...This is a story about the Woman behind the Philosophy.
p.s. My friends also enjoyed the movie.
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on October 28, 1999
The price is right again! (Even the VHS copy was affordable when it first became available). As soon as I discovered that the DVD version was on the way I preordered it for a great price. It finaly arrived and I again was spellbound. On a good home entertainment system, the experience of watching this film is now even better. Yes, it does gloss over certain facets of Rand's life (i.e. Nathaniel Branden, and the fact that some people misapply her philosophy)but it succeeds in depicting the fundamental benevolent spirit that Rand, myself and others wish for everyone to have. So it definitely achieves what it set out to, and does so in a fascinating manner, recalling many aspects of Rand's life that many of her fans, much less her detractors, may never have been aware of. Kudos to Michael Paxton for creating a wonderful film!
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on February 14, 1999
This monumental documentary of Ayn Rand's life is the work of Michael Paxton, a genius in his field. The depth of information and content conveyed to the viewer is phenomenal and should not be passed over. To watch it is to spend a few hours living in a world where success is possible and heroes are a way of life. I travelled over a hundred miles many times to see this production in the theatre and I met the director in person after a private viewing during a convention. All I could say to him was, "Thank you." This film is worth every penny and should be a treasured part of anyone's video library.
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on June 28, 2003
This was an incredible film of a remarkable woman. In particular, the film does a great job of showing more of the person behind the persona. It shows how she consistently applied her principles and how they furthered her life and gave her happiness.
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on December 24, 1999
The film opens with Statue of Liberty and Sharon Gless quoting Rand's words "If a life can have a 'theme song' -- and I believe every worthwhile one has -- mine is a religion, an obsession or a mania -- or all of these -- expressed in one word: Individualism." From here the you go in to the fascinating life of Ayn Rand. This absorbing documentary lets you see how Ayn Rand came to the United States from Russia with little more then nothing, and became one of the worlds greatest novelist/philosopher to have ever lived. Interview segments with Leonard Peikoff bring out clear and rich picture of Ayn Rand to every fan of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged will enjoy.
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