Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In honor of "Bioshock" belatedly coming to PS3...

This is going to get me cyber-lynched, but it's a necessary preface: Whatever you think of her philosophical ideas, as a novelist Ayn Rand was kinda scattershot. She had her strong suits - story structure, scope, management of characters, Dickensian bad guy names (Ellsworth Tooey?) and an undeniable skill for stories of slowly-revealed systemic collapse. But, on the other hand, she quite simply seldom - if ever - cared to grasp not only how actual people behave or speak... but how characters in hyper-real books/movies behave or speak. It's one thing to have your characters exist primarily as avatars for philosophical ideals, it's another to have them act like walking speakerphones. Her characters don't speak, they ORATE in every situation regardless of context.

Which is why it was probably NOT the best idea to have her write the screenplay for the (appropriately wacky) 1949 adaptation of "The Fountainhead" and DEFINATELY not the best idea to agree to let her have absolute final-say on dialogue (though, given then theme of the work what the hell else would you expect?) And it's also why the only part of the film where the dialogue and mandated-delivery really WORKS is in the climactic "summation" scene wherein Gary Cooper's Howard Roark defends himself in court for the charge of destroying a building he'd been comissioned to designed after discovering that the agreement that his edgy, ultra-modern design not be altered without his consent has been violated (the book/character are basically a lionizing of Frank Lloyd Wright, if you've not read it.)

It still doesn't FULLY fit - this clearly isn't Cooper's natural diction and it's obvious he (and the rest of the cast, really) are working heavily from memorization. Still, it's quite a moment overall and, while I can't really get behind Objectivism in total THIS one speech is one I find to be a pretty fine presentation of ideas I'm generally pretty down with. Taken as a statement of personal integrity in general and the rights of artists/creative people in particular, I'd even call it somewhat inspiring. In any case, it's been on my mind, it says things I'd like to say better than I can say them, and it IS kinda the only part of the movie anyone needs to see. So, if you've never seen this, give it a watch (it's only about five minutes):



P.S. The YouTube link is the best-quality clip I could find, if you click it and the guy who put it up has other stuff on his setlist that you don't like I'm not endorsing it and I'm not responsible for it.

1 comment:

Vincent said...

Yeah, I can generally appreciate the points being made, but you can really see Rand's biased views seeping through.

For example, the claim that "every great achievement has come from the independent work of some independent mind" is stretching the truth quite a bit. So many achievements, especially in recent times, have come from collaborative work among scientists, creators, etc. Sure, each collaborator possessed individuality and an autonomous mind, but each also valued the synergy that comes from a meeting of brilliant minds (the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts). The film excerpt seems to imply that great achievements invariably come from individuals whose work is free from the input or influence of any other persons. If this is indeed the intented message, it is false.

Another of Rand's points that just doesn't ring true: "I do not recognize anyone's right to one minute of my life, nor to any part of my energy, nor to any achievement of mine". Hello! We live in a society! I'm all in favor of individual freedom, but when you live in a society, and when you enjoy the associated benefits, you are in turn bound by a duty to give over some of your time/energy/money/etc. I live in a society. I drive on roads that I did not build. So I pay taxes to pay for road maintenance. I call the police to protect me from criminals. So I pay taxes to pay their salaries. I turn to the legal system to protect my rights and freedoms. So I do jury duty when my name comes up. Etc etc. If you don't want to give up some of your time/money/energy, even when you'd rather not, then go live by yourself on a deserted island and be self-sufficient.