David R. Henderson  

Barbara Branden on Atlas Shrugged

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Along with some other recipients, I received a letter from Barbara Branden last night about her reaction to the movie, Atlas Shrugged. She gave me permission to quote extensively. I couldn't think of anything to cut and so here is her whole letter:

I am delighted, overwhelmed, and stunned.

Yesterday, I saw Atlas Shrugged, Part I, the movie. In advance, I was tense and worried. What if it was terrible? In that case, no one would consider a remake for years, if ever. I didn't think it would be terrible, especially after I saw a clip from the film: the scene where Rearden comes home to his family after the first pouring of Rearden Metal. The scene was very good indeed. But. . . .

The movie is not so-so, it is not OK, it is not rather good -- it is spectacularly good. I won't go into detail; for this, see David Kelley's review, with which I am in agreement (http://www.atlassociety.org/atlas-shrugged-movie-film-news) -- except that he rather understates the film's virtues.

The script is excellent, as is the acting. The music is first rate, and immensely adds to the tension that the action and the tempo of the film create. Visually, it is very beautiful. And wait until you experience the first run of the John Galt Line!

The film's greatest virtue is that, from the first moment, one steps into the world of Atlas Shrugged. The writers whose works live across time share an essential characteristic: their unique and personal stamp, their unique and personal spirit, emanates from every page of their writing, and one knows it could have been created by no other sense of life, no other intellect. The literary universe of Dostoievsky, for instance, its tone, its emotional quality, is instantly recognizable and can never be confused with that of Henry James or Victor Hugo or Oscar Wilde or Thomas Wolfe. And so with Ayn Rand: one turns the pages of The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged and one has entered a self-consistent new planet, formed in the image of the world view and the values that were hers alone.

To a remarkable degree, the movie captures the spirit, the sense of life, that was Ayn Rand's alone.

Does it have faults? I suppose so. I could not care less -- and I suspect you won't care either.


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CATEGORIES: Economics and Culture



COMMENTS (15 to date)
tim writes:

So a die hard fan of a book reviews a movie and is overwhelmed? Why do I find it hard to view her "review" as objective? That's right you can't.

Personally I was underwhelmed by the trailer. But not as underwhelmed as I was by the book. I get and even support many of the themes but Ayn Rand was simply not a very good writer or communicator.

hawk30 writes:

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Mark Plus writes:

Who in her right mind would form her philosophy of life based on a wish-fulfillment and revenge fantasy about a 30-something male virgin with a failed technical career?

Aeon J. Skoble writes:

@Tim: the fact that someone loves a book doesn't mean that person will be uncritical about a film of that boook! The harshest criticism of Peter Jackson came from hardcore LOTR fans who thought he shouldn't have changed this or that. Ditto with criticism of Zack Snyder's film of Watchmen. So too here: loving the book won't make one uncritical of the movie; if anything the opposite.

Kevin writes:

LOL yeah people who "love the book" usually "hate the movie." I'll be interested to see how the movie resonates with non-readers.

Ben Bursae writes:

@Mark Plus: Have you even read the book? Clearly not, because there is no way on earth someone with half a brain comes away with that plot synopsis or summary. Oops, I may have just realized the problem here...

John Smith writes:

To Ben Bursae:

Please do some self reflection on what you just wrote and think about whether it applies to you. Clue, it probably does.

I like the book very much, except for the very lengthy description of her idealogy in one passage. But it is clearly the case that one could argue what Mark did. The fact that we disagree with his views should not make us dishonest.

Ben Bursae writes:

@John Smith: Not sure if you're being insulting or not, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps I misspoke, and maybe it is because I disagree with his views. Maybe I should have said that he does himself no credit at all by posting such an inane oversimplification of a story that in actuality has an incredibly interwoven and intricate plot.

But, one could ask a similarly inane oversimplifying question in response: Who in his right mind would form his philosophy based on a wish-fulfillment and revenge fantasy about downtrodden have-nots with failed careers? It still doesn't make any kind of contribution to the discussion, just as Mark's post did not.

RobertB writes:

I've never seen a nominally positive review that lowered my expectations for a work so far.

Eric Hosemann writes:

I'm excited that the movie is being made, even though I don't feel any longer that Rand accurately describes the creative impulse within the market context. She portrays the entrepreneur as daring creator/first adopter/creative destructor just fine, but this is a romantic picture best taken with a few grains of salt. Before reading Mises and thinking about individual behavior, cooperation and coercion, I thought the "entrepreneur as hero" thing was awesome. It is a rockstar picture that is very appealing across age and class boundaries.

Mises, Hayek and Kirzner describe the entrepreneur differently. He is the servant of the consumer. He may have incredible dreams and the perseverance to make them real, but those dreams are ultimately useless if they don't address scarcity and inequality in ways appealing to others. In my memory, Galt's Gulch has little room for a bunch of people whose intentions--whether they realize them or not--are to serve their fellow men. I think of Galt's Gulch more as a place where the creative impulse is unimpeded by government coercion to serve another's interest.

Steve Sailer writes:

In the trailer, I thought the 1950s' state-of-the-art industrial stuff looked cool, but the mundane contemporary cars and computers were distracting. What era is this movie set in? I'd pay to see a movie set in a world where the future ain't ain't what it used to be, where everything looks just like what people in the 1950s expected the future to look like. "Atlas Shrugged" looks like it kind of wants to do that but kind of doesn't.

I presume they just didn't have a big enough budget to make everything look retro sci-fi, but maybe they've got some meta-thing going to explain that away

John Smith writes:

To Ben Bursae:

Thank you for being able to correct yourself. The fact that you may not find his comment that value-added should not mean that you should indulge in hyperbole. This is important in one's conduct.

Besides, I didn't find his comment that offensive. It sounds pretty much exactly like what someone who is opposed to her ideas would say. Nothing that was that unreasonable or excessive.

twv writes:

I've never read the book. I didn't want it to spoil the movie.

I note that the actor who plays Galt is handsome, and is also the director. This seems to exemplify two Randian themes.

The movie also looks humorless. Which reflects a Randian theme if not a Randian practice - she had wit, and could satirize corrosively. ("The Fountainhead" contains many hysterically funny passages.)

The story's theme and plot, as I've gathered from numerous friends and enemies, has always struck me as bizarre in the extreme, and having little bearing on real life. But that doesn't preclude a low budget film from some kind of excellence, now, does it?

Mike Rael writes:

Hi friends,
I haven't yet seen the film, so I have no idea what it's like.
I respect Barbara Branden's ability to write objectively--God knows, her book about Rand deserves that respect!--but I have no idea if she is fully objective as a movie reviewer.
To me, being a movie reviewer is like a sacred mission. You see a movie a number of times, focusing on direction, acting, script, and music separately.
You have a number of comparable movies in your mind, so that you can know when an idea is presented tritely, and when not.
Finally, after having done your homework, you let it all just sit in your mind for a week, before seeing the movie one last time for integration.
Then and only then you write your review.
On the LA Objectivists list, one listmember said that how you see it is a matter of perspective. I don't agree. Not if you aim for objectivity first and foremost, respecting the film's flaws as much as you do its merits.
Perspective comes into it at the beginning and the ending of the film. At the beginning, your feelings serve as warnings about what is happening in the film or about you the film-goer. At the end, one's perspective helps one decide how much, with it's good and bad parts, one enjoys the film as a whole given one's values.

best to all,
Mike Rael, MS

Bob Barker writes:

I think that the movie looks very bad.

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