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Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life (1997)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Biography | 13 February 1998 (USA)
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.




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


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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A Life More Compelling Than Fiction


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Official Sites:

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Release Date:

13 February 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ayn Rand: Un sentido de la vida  »


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
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References Song of Russia (1944) See more »

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User Reviews

Good biography of a unique writer and philosopher
5 February 2010 | by See all my reviews

I've been interested in Ayn Rand ever since I read "Atlas Shrugged" when I was only 22 years old. I didn't quite get everything Ayn was trying to say in that book at the time, and I chalked it up to my lack of life experience given my youth. When I was 40, I ran across this documentary on public TV. I figured that since 18 years had passed, watching this documentary combined with my maturity would enable me to understand Ayn Rand.

This biography is a very sanitized version of Ayn Rand's life. The biography is accurate if not complete, since there is a lack of balance in the presentation due to the absence of information that shows the flawed and even somewhat "kookie" facets of the woman. For example, she encouraged her followers to smoke to highlight mankind's dominance over fire. The film also makes out her relationship with her husband, Frank, to be an ideal romance that lasted for decades. In fact, Ayn cheated on Frank for years with colleague Nathaniel Branden. To give her credit, she was true to her philosophy in being "objective" about the affair in the sense that she insisted that both her and Branden's spouse know what was going on. She ceased being objective, though, when Branden tired of her and began having an affair with a younger woman. She threw Branden and his research out the door with all of the emotion of any human being whose heart was being "subjectively" stomped on. I bring these points up not for the purpose of character assassination. Instead, I think that that it is difficult to get a balanced view of someone whose life work was pronouncing how life should be lived without examining the both the flaws and triumphs in that person's own life.

The documentary did give me some insight into Ayn Rand's philosophy, though, and I'll have to say that she seems to be someone who threw the baby out with the bath water at every turn. As a youth in Russia, prior to the Russian revolution, she saw the failure of the Russian orthodox church to connect with the parishioners and help their lives in any way. This caused her to become an atheist without causing her to explore if it was in fact that this particular institution of religion was the failure, rather than the concept of God. After the revolution she saw the utter failure of the policies of Communism, and this caused her to believe that pure unadulterated capitalism is the only economic system that works, not bothering to realize that there might be a middle ground that looks out for society's weaker members while also rewarding enterprise and hard work.

The fact that Ayn was what is an "odd bird" in 21st century America - an atheist capitalist - can only make me wonder what she would have to say about today's situation of fundamentalist Christian dogma intertwined with cut-throat capitalism that has become today's Republican party.

If you are interested in learning the main points about Ayn Rand's life, this is a good source for the facts and even some insights - particularly good are the clips from her appearances on the Donahue show shortly before her death. However, realize that this biography is somewhat sanitized.

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