We the Living (1942) Poster

(1942)

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7/10
A political love story
atlasmb29 March 2013
Ayn Rand's novel, We the Living, was made into 2 films by an Italian company and released in 1942. They made these films without the consent of the author. Nevertheless, the resulting films were rather well done, except for the fact that dialogue and plot were added that were a) more acceptable to the fascist government in power and b) antithetical to Rand's beliefs and the nature of the characters. Thus, when Rand was asked for her permission to re-release the films decades later, she agreed with the stipulation that the offending sections be excised. After all, the actions and motivations of the characters were contradictory with the added lines. (Example: it does not make sense for a character to condemn the principles of a free market economy when he is rebelling against a socialist economy).

Rand was mostly pleased with the Italian product and the actors' performances, so she was pleased to have the films--which were combined into one film--modified and released. Besides being a great novelist, she started her writing career as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Her understanding of plot and character development are second to no one's.

The story itself is a complex love story, a triangle between the heroine and the two relationships she had with two men--one who was a member of the ruling communist party, and one whose father was a member of the overthrown aristocracy. Both men are victims of their times in that they see aristocracy and communism as the only two alternatives. The first man learns the realities of compromising his values due to practicalities within the party and the social/political structure. The second suffers for his values but eventually learns to compromise them (they were not so strong to begin with) to survive in the corrupt society of the USSR.

Without the exposition of Rand's novel, the political messages of the story are probably difficult to discern, other than the "I" vs "The State" basics.

One writer criticized Rand for wanting to bring the film closer to her original vision, as if those who stole her work had a right to their artistic vision. I guess you could say that the fascist authorities also had a right to their vision, but obviously whatever rights they had to their own beliefs gave them no rights when it comes to amending Rand's work. The original Italian films would, no doubt be interesting, but mostly as examples of propaganda and for historical purposes.
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10/10
Produced under the noses of Mussolini's police...
occupant-128 August 2001
... it shortly ran afoul of their political advisers, being not just an argument against bolshevism but ANY variant of dictatorship, fascist as well. It's amazing that a copy survived to be discovered after the war. This is a rare treasure, for Valli's performance as well as the historical background. On top of that, this is one of the few times a book's made such a literal transition to film (due to lack of time during the war for script preparation), giving us a far more accurate indication of what the novelist Ayn Rand intended than, say, 'The Fountainhead' (1949), or certainly 'You Came Along' (1945).
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Anti-totalitarian epic.
Gerald A. DeLuca7 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Goffredo Alessandrini's unauthorized 1942 version of Ayn Rand's novel "We the Living" appeared in Fascist Italy in two separate parts: NOI VIVI and ADDIO, KIRA. They are essentially one film. It was the grim story of post-revolutionary Russia, the forced collectivization of the economy and the brutal suppression of human rights, all told from the viewpoint of one woman, Kira. Ayn Rand's novel was autobiographical and was essentially a diatribe against the loss of individuality in totalitarian societies.

The film attracted a sizable audience in Italy. The Fascist government saw the film(s) as a condemnation of Soviet misery but when it became aware that the movie(s) implied a condemnation of all totalitarian states, left and right, it withdrew them from distribution.

They were not seen again and were thought lost until the early 1960s when Ayn Rand's attorneys located prints in Rome. Ayn Rand liked the movie(s) a great deal, while having reservations about certain liberties that had been taken with dialog and situations. She died in 1982 and did not live to see the re-issue of the film, which was brought about under the auspices of the Ayn Rand estate. The original two-part 4-hour version was edited down to a 170-minute one-film version. One major speech (of Fosco Giachetti) was re-dubbed to assert Randian philosophy, and the ending (with the death of Kira in the snow as she is shot trying to escape from Russian) was eliminated, rendering the film more optimistic.

We are glad that the film was made available in some form after having been lost for decades. After all, how many films from Fascist Italy get picked up for commercial distribution in America these days? But we also regret that Alessandrini's complete artistic achievement was truncated and tampered with. Wasn't creative integrity the theme of Rand's novel "The Fountainhead"? Having had the good fortune of seeing the uncut integral two films on video in Italy, I can vouch for them as being more satisfying, less disjointed in that format. Let's be clear. This new version is NOT a "restoration" as some are calling it. It is, rather, an "adaptation." I would call it a desecration. We are ambivalent about it but pleased to have it. And the 35mm print material is first rate.

As much as anything else, WE THE LIVING is a whopping good love story, of "Camille"-like intensity and "Anna Karenina"-like grandeur. The stunning Alida Valli as Kira and Rossano Brazzi as her wastrel lover Leo, devour the screen in their scenes together. Fosco Giachetti as Andrei, head of the secret police and willing to sacrifice honor and ideals for Kira, is poignant and unforgettable. As is this film, or as are these films.
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