Stephen Speicher

We the Living (1942/1986)

Rate this movie   10 votes

  1. 1. Rate this movie

    • 10
      4
    • 9
      4
    • 8
      1
    • 7
      1
    • 6
      0
    • 5
      0
    • 4
      0
    • 3
      0
    • 2
      0
    • 1
      0
    • 0
      0

Please sign in or register to vote in this poll.

9 posts in this topic

imdb.com listing for We the Living (1942/1986).

Movie suggested for rating by Kitty Hawk.

Ah yes, went to see this in a theatre in Vancouver BC. I remember liking the music, and thinking how beautiful Alda? was. To my surprise, the leading man, was my hero from South Pacific. I know Ayn Rand redid some of the bad philosophical bits, which made it all the more enjoyable. The old world acting style was suited to the times of the setting. (Modern movies can be atrocious with 'modern' idioms and mannerisms.)

I give it an eight.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We The Living is one of my top favorite movies. I've read that originally it was released as two separate movies in Italy, and that a lot of it was cut in order to fit it into a single movie. Has anyone seen either or both of the originals?

I wonder if everything that was cut was philosophically flawed, or if there were some good scenes that were cut, too. I suspect the latter, and I wonder if anyone might eventually release a DVD with cut scenes, or something. I'd be interested to see the originals, just to see what they got wrong, and to see how different the movies flowed in their original form.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah yes, went to see this in a theatre in Vancouver BC. I remember liking the music, and thinking how beautiful Alda? was. To my surprise, the leading man, was my hero from South Pacific. I know Ayn Rand redid some of the bad philosophical bits, which made it all the more enjoyable. The old world acting style was suited to the times of the setting. (Modern movies can be atrocious with 'modern' idioms and mannerisms.)

I give it an eight.

The lead actress was Alida Vali. Uniquely beautiful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It had been a long time since I watched this movie. I have the edition that came in a deluxe binder, with three small picture-cards of Valli, Brazzi, and Giachetti, the three stars of the movie, plus five beautiful 8x10 inch glossy photos of scenes from the movie.

Watching it again reminded me how magnificent this movie is. It is a movie whose protagonist is an Ayn Rand like woman, trapped in the Soviet Union. Ayn Rand called it "as near to an autobiography as I will ever write." Given that, the movie was bound to be great. And it is.

Alida Valli, beautiful and intransigent, is perfect as Kira Argounova, the woman who wants to be an engineer who builds skyscrapers and shining aluminum bridges. According to Jeff Britting's essay in Essays on Ayn Rand's We the Living, "Adapting We the Living," Alessandrini said to Valli: "I won't tell you how to interpret Kira, because you are Kira. What you'll do will be fine." She was that perfect for the role.

Rossano Brazzi is the handsome, proud aristocrat, Leo Kovalensky, with whom Kira falls in love. At some point Ayn Rand met Rossano Brazzi, and it may have been Brazzi's personal print of the original film that she first saw. Brazzi is said to have kept prints of only three or four of the 250 movies in which he was the lead actor---and We the Living was one of them.

And Fosco Giachetti, who was the top actor in Italy at the time, plays Andrei Taganov, idealistic member of the GPU, with whom Kira forms a relationship, as well. Again, according to Britting's essay, Mussolini's son, Vittorio, requested that Giachetti accept changes to Andrei's character "to bring it in line with Fascist ideology." Giachetti answered: "Well, I don't do favors to anybody, my artistic personality is mine, and if in the film I don't find the novel's Andrei, on whom we have based everything and signed the contract, I won't do the film." Andrei's strength of character is visible throughout the film in Giachetti's performance.

Originally, it was two movies: Noi Vivi, and Addio, Kira, totalling about 4 hours. The director was Goffredo Alessandrini. It was reduced by one hour, deleting scenes that were about sub-plots, and those that were philosophically corrupt. Evidently there were some anti-Semitic and anti-capitalist dialogue. The scene in which Andrei speaks to the Party, denouncing its goals, was evidently one of the corrupted scenes.

According to Peter Schwartz's article "We the Living-The Movie," (pages 657-661 in the bound volume of The Intellectual Activist) Duncan Scott, the producer of the rereleased version of We the Living, had this to say: "The most horrendous philosophical mistake was Andrei's inquisition scene, where he confronts and denounces his communist accusers. The Italian version had lengthy passages in which he says to them things like, 'You sold out--you wanted the servitude of the Russian people to foreign capitalists.' It was terrible." But instead of deleting the scene, it was redubbed with some of Andrei's actual lines from the novel. That makes the scene a bit awkward, but obviously they couldn't let it remain as it was.

When Mussolini had the movie banned, both Alida Valli and Rossano Brazzi refused to do any acting in Italy for the rest of the war. Rossano Brazzi actually became active in the Italian resistance movement during the war, according to Peter Schwartz's article in The Intellectual Activist. And Brazzi said this of the movie's reception in Italy during the war: "In Rome, people lined up for the picture for three months. There was a close-up picture of me and they made it into a small button, and the girls put it on their dresses. It had my picture as Leo and the words 'NOI VIVI.' . . . That was a good moment for Italy, for pictures . . . "

The result is simply my favorite movie ever. Better than Casablanca, my second all-time favorite. It only needs to be transferred to DVD to make the story complete.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A couple of years ago, I purchased a two-volume VHS copy of this film, copyright 1989 by Angelika Films, with a running time of 174 minutes. But the English subtitles were so badly done that in many places they were simply unreadable, because the white subtitles (with no black border) often fell over white backgrounds. The subtitles were the work of rank amateurs -- terrible quality. I can't wait for a release of the film with subtitles done by professionals. The best color for subtitles is yellow, but if they must be white, they should have a thin black border so that they can at least be read if they fall against a white background. This stuff is elementary!

In spite of this major flaw, I could see that the film in general, and the acting in particular was top notch. But I won't even try watching it again until I can get a copy with better subtitles. However, I have to say that Alida Valli was perfect, just like I imagined Kira to be in the novel. If a version is ever released with the subtitles done properly (or if I ever learn Italian), I think it's more than likely that this film will rank among the best in my collection.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good movie.

Kira has always been my favorite of Ayn Rand's heroines, and Alida Valli was indeed the perfect Kira; I cannot imagine somebody else doing a better job.

And as Kitty Hawk's comments illustrate, the story of the making of this movie is very interesting too. (That itself would make a good plot for a movie - sort of a meta-movie. :) )

Liking the movie is also a good reason to own Essays on Ayn Rand's We the Living.

....

I don't remember what I thought of the subtitles and it's been quite a few years, so I won't dispute what Rose Lake says about them. But there is one feature of this movie that almost makes good subtitles superfluous, and that is that the script follows the book very well. So if you have read the book, you can probably fill in the dialogue yourself, even if you miss a few words of the subtitle text.

The book of essays gives some clue as to how the movie script came to follow the book so closely:

During the preproduction period, Majano and Alessandrini left for Africa to work on a production there, leaving completion of the script in the hands of the "two writers". When Majano and Alessandrini returned to Italy, they discovered the script was unusable: the writers ahd transformed Kira Argounova from an engineering student into a ballet dancer. With an imminent starting date and no time to draft another script, Alessandrini and Majano decided to write and film the script simultaneously. The night before each day's shooting, new dialogue was prepared and distributed the next morning by Majano's assistant.

So it was almost the case that the script was the book; there wasn't time for making big changes, even if they'd wanted to.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I must have messed up the formatting of the attribution of the quotation in my last post. That quote - about the writing of the script - is from Essays on Ayn Rand's We the Living, page 170.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The result is simply my favorite movie ever. Better than Casablanca, my second all-time favorite. It only needs to be transferred to DVD to make the story complete.

I give it a '10.' So much better than Casablanca!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites