09 March 2007

The Passion of Ayn Rand

This movie has made me realize that made-for-tv movies are really their own special breed of film. Because this movie, in some ways, is phenomenal, and yet it's not. It's really odd. It's a really good made-for-tv movie. Which is not to say that it's a good movie. Which is not to say that it's not worth watching. It's really quite curious.

The movie is ostensibly about Ayn Rand's torrid love affair with a younger man (and is based, as I understand it, upon the book written by his wife), but what it's _really_ about, if I may be so bold, is the way in which people attempt to rationally justify and control their emotions. This, I think, is what makes it kind of a remarkable film, and quite well done, all the more interesting, because the rationale employed here is Objectivism. And as it turns out, a sly premise of Objectivism is its valorization of absolute rationality, and what this film brilliantly illustrates is that at the end of the day, people just aren't fully rational. In other words, it illustrates the flaws of Objectivism, partly by showing that Ayn Rand can't live up to it. What's nice about the movie is that it's not a jerk about it. Rand, curiously enough, is portrayed in a touching, very human way. She's kind of a Quixotic character, actually, it's kind of lovely. The film realizes that she's misguided, but nonetheless has a tremendous amount of respect for her. It's not that you pity her at the end, but you have a kind of compassion for her, and yet you can't help but admire her at the same time. It's not that her tough-as-nails, hardass exterior is shown to be false, but rather, that there is a softer, vulnerable side to it as well. It's a tribute, in a sense, created by someone who has gotten older and wiser and yet still retains a touch of hero worship.

At the same time, you have a very interesting array of characters alongside Rand who illustrate different variants of the problem, and its moral dynamics. Her husband, who is a big softie, her lover, who is a total hypocrite, her lover's wife, a particularly fascinating creature who is a curious blend of emotion and intellect, her lover's lover, who is basically at the opposite end of the spectrum from Rand herself. Really quite well done. Conceptually, the film is pretty amazing, and rhetorically, it's quite persuasive. I could say a lot more about this, but honestly, I'm too tired. Moving on, the cast is kind of remarkable- Helen Mirren, who is amazing, Peter Fonda, who's quite good, Julie Delpy, who is entirely decent, and Eric Stoltz (bwahahaha) who is mediocre. Also, notably, there's a lot of sex, and quite well done. Obviously a movie made for cable, heh heh.

Unfortunately, there's also a wretchedly cheesy jazz soundtrack. Also, it looks like a made-for-tv movie. It's hard for me to put my finger on what that means exactly, perhaps someone can explain better? The sets, the costumes, the color scheme, I dunno, but there's just something tv about it. The melodrama has this odd canned effect, which is a pity, because it's actually a really poignant film.

So while you may not need to rent it, if you're couch surfing and stumble across it, don't touch that dial.


Anonymous said...

While objective, the summation lacks knowledge to adequately describe the "easy" movie, but so far, it's all "we get" from Ayn Rand as a biography of sort. Ayn Rand never purports the non-use of emotion. Careful study (and I am not finished critical reading her works)shows that her emotions are very deep but very controlled: she said that emotions are "guides" for the intellect "once there was no dichotomy of 'mind and body.' Although, no Ive Leagues recongize her as a Philosopher, her philosophy is argued in every philosophical book, is it true that all publishers are communist? One of the greates publishers in the 1920s-40s refused to publish her works--but later on she got what she wanted, an unedited publish.

Back to the love drama, in Ayn's philosophy, if a person embodies your highest value and you yourself are probably your highest value that you can compare with to others, if that person "submits" to another person then that reveals in acton that you, originally, were not that person's highest value. Ayn didn't hate what happened, she hated that she made a mistake. If her values placate: reason, purpose, achievement and happiness and these are premises to presuppose: if there is an error then that means a premise needs to be "rechecked" again.
If you read Ayn's novles, you find that she has a way of pushing deep emotions through acton--and if you study literature, you can see Checkhov and Voltaire in her writing--doesn't mean she read them since archetype threads do run through universal writing.
With that, she had a vision and she attempted to give man what he has never had EVER. Values without religion. Look at society now, no religion and no values and there are lots of "mess out there."

She and Godell believed that life could be lived logically, in oddity, both traveld to America through Lativa in the same era--weird. However, with Godell, cognitive sciences, show that deeply logical people can love more deeply than non logical or those who wish not to use "reason."

I agree with that becuase, if the brain and consciousness work in harmony in a one-to-one correspondence and consciousness is 'boundless and endless' then that means the higher that logic can be raised, the more broad a person can be since the ration is dependant upon the logic rather than consciousness. (my theory).

In contrary, there is no freedom in absolute logic since I believe that freedom happens in small windows of opportunities: by happenstance, by reflective thinking and by doing nothing at all with regards to live and those who we bump into because of it (acton rquires no action-Voltaire).


culture_vulture said...

You seem to be having a conversation with yourself here, so I'm not sure that there's really much for me to say, but...

I'm not sure exactly what your first sentence means, but on first reading you appear to be saying that while 1. it is an objective account, 2. I lack the knowledge to properly summarize the movie, but 3. meanwhile, there are not other biographies of Rand. How 3. follows from 1. and 2., I have no idea. Though it might be worth pointing out that Rand claimed that We the Living, and the rest of her novels to some extent, should be seen as autobiographies. But as to 1. and 2., no, it's not a objective account - not even close. It's my own highly personal and idiosyncratic account. Which relates closely to 2., namely, I wasn't trying to summarize the movie, I was writing a rambling blog entry about it.

As to the rest of that paragraph, I disagree - I think she is recognized as a philosopher, it's just that she's not particularly respected as one. It's rare to find a philosophy class teaching her ideas, because they don't think she's worth the time. It's notable that academia despises her as much as it does, actually, but I think it's a not entirely unfounded anxiety, namely, her ideas are highly appealing to young people, and it takes them a very long time to understand why she's wrong. In the meantime, they're enmired in intellectual fascism, and some of them never grow out of it.

As to the love drama, I think maybe part of the problem is that Rand can't see love and sex outside a dichotomy of mastery and submission. Which is interesting, actually, because I think her novels, read carefully, have a more nuanced view.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that her novels are much better than her philosophy - though she would say that they're an embodiment of it - in that her novels are in some ways smarter than she is, and more importantly, they're set in a fictional world (though she would disagree), which ideally means that the reader understands that this world is not, and furthermore, should not, be the same as ours. Hopefully the reader will eventually understand why Ayn Rand's world would be such a disaster.

No, Rand doesn't argue for a lack of emotion. But if you read her works, you'll see that emotion is always subordinated to logic, and where it is irrational, it's suppressed. There is no understanding that emotion can be a powerful, completely irrational factor, and that the brain is a tricky creature that is capable of rationalizing plenty of things that are largely emotionally driven. Your own theory, towards the end, suffers from this flaw as well. Think back, recall an argument you made under the sway of a certain emotion - jealousy is a good example. A jealous person makes all kinds of seemingly rational arguments, and insist that their suspicions are grounded in logic. When these suspicions prove to be completely unfounded, they realize what a powerful force emotion played in their thinking.

I have no doubts that Rand did read both Chekhov and Voltaire. Sorry if this seems random, but I'm trying to pick up on your points which, if you'll pardon the observation, are somewhat randomly organized as well.

To say that Rand is the first and only person to give the world values without religion is simply incorrect, I'm sorry.

Indeed, there is no freedom in absolute logic. If you haven't already, read Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground, it's a lovely account of the problem.