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Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life (1997)

A documentary focusing on the life of novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, the author of the bestselling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and originator of the Objectivist philosophy.


Michael Paxton


Michael Paxton

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Sharon Gless ... Narrator (voice)
Michael S. Berliner Michael S. Berliner ... Himself - Editor of Rand's Letters (as Dr. Michael S. Berliner)
Harry Binswanger Harry Binswanger ... Himself - Professor and Friend (as Dr. Harry Binswanger)
Sylvia Bokor Sylvia Bokor ... Herself - Artist
Daniel E. Greene Daniel E. Greene ... Himself - Artist
Cynthia Peikoff Cynthia Peikoff ... Herself - Friend and Secretary
Leonard Peikoff Leonard Peikoff ... Himself - Intellectual Heir and Friend (as Dr. Leonard Peikoff)
Al Ramrus Al Ramrus ... Himself - Writer and Producer
John Ridpath John Ridpath ... Himself - Professor: York University (as Dr. John Ridpath)
Mike Wallace ... Himself - CBS News Correspondent
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Janne Peters ... Kay Gonda
Peter Sands ... Dietrich von Esterhazy


Ayn Rand was born in 1905 in St. Petersberg, Russia. She escaped to America in 1926 amidst the rise of Soviet Communism. She remained in the United States for the rest of her life, where she became a much respected author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. The themes of freedom and individualism were to be her life's passion, and would win her a devoted following among readers. Her books continue to sell over 300,000 copies each year. Upon her arrival in America, Ayn Rand applied for a screenwriting position at the DeMille Studios in Hollywood. On that same day, a chance meeting with DeMille brought her to the set of The King of Kings where she was hired as an extra for the film. But, it wasn't until her 1936 Broadway success, Night of January 16th, that she first achieved fame as a writer. The play, a courtroom drama that was tried before a jury drawn from the audience each night, had two endings for each verdict. Although a success, it was Ayn's first struggle to keep the ... Written by Strand Releasing <strand@strandreleasing.com>

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A Life More Compelling Than Fiction


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Official Sites:

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Release Date:

13 February 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ayn Rand: Un sentido de la vida See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$189,083, 2 October 1998

Gross USA:

$209,244, 26 September 1999
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


References Song of Russia (1944) See more »

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User Reviews

"Ayn says: Businessmen are the last hope of US Civilization"
7 May 2004 | by MiloMindbenderSee all my reviews

screams a newspaper header pictured in this documentary. Finally, the stupid people of the world have their own philosopher & this film covers her life's work & story very well.

Bereft of any intellectual discussions, this film repeats Rand's "philosophy" over & over: individualism over collectivism, rationality above all, humans must heed their inner voice....repeated over & over with exceptionally annoying background music. It's quite obvious that this "documentary" is really a thinly veiled marketing video produced by the Ayn Rand Institute. All of those who are interviewed are her friends. The film never engages critically or substantively ( or is there no substance to "objectivism"?) with philosophical, economic, or political ideas. Hence, the contradictions that crop up (to a person with the capacity to think, anyway) are glaring: Ayn is on the hunt for the "ultimate man" with her fiction yet marries an unassuming dolt, Ayn is preaching individualism from a rarerified life inside a Frank Lloyd Wright castle while the collective masses outside protest segregation...

The film does cover a few details of her life in order to portray her as the classic immigrant to the US who struggles against all odds to become sucessful. But the filmmakers really have to go overboard to do this, hence the ad nauseum repetition. They repeat over & over that she was fascinated with the New York skyline in Hollywood movies & that this shaped her philosophy & novels. But, she had to walk to work to save up enough money so to see a movie (420 movies in 2 years that is).....of course, lots of others emigrated to the US on dreams too & at least they don't have an over-inflated sense of self. So what makes Ayn so special? That she's unapollagetically an atheist? Emma Goldman is more interesting. That she didn't bake cookies....? A lot of housewives have contributed more to

society than this woman. That her books helped many conservatives and libertarians let go of any social conscious they may have had & helped them succeed in business without even trying? Her most popular books were fiction & not self-help or how-to books. That she set up the Ayn Rand institute, an hommage to herself, to keep the cult going. Scientology, Focus on The Family, and UFO abductees are just as successful at this...

The only conclusion I can come to after seeing this film is that Ayn Rand became successful because she is the truest mirror for Americans to bask in their own reflection:

1. act selfishly, it is your true nature 2. self-promotion makes your life's work into a work of art, and the more money you die with, the more staying power your life's work will have. 3. the more you repeat things, the truer they become 4. all of your intellectual capacity, moral guidance & reflection can be summed up on a cocktail napkin.....even if you've had 3 too many martinis.

oh, and repeat after me: "There's no place like home, there's no place like home...."

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