We the Living | Chicago Reader

We the Living

An unauthorized Italian adaptation of Ayn Rand's first novel made in Italy in 1942 without Rand's knowledge, suppressed by the Mussolini government—which considered it antifascist in spite of its anti-Soviet material—and reedited by Rand herself before her death. Based on Rand's youth in 1920s Russia, the plot concerns a melodramatic triangle made up of a counterrevolutionary engineering student (The Third Man's Alida Valli), a dispossessed aristocrat she falls in love with (Rossano Brazzi), and a loyal party member (Fosco Giacchetti) who befriends and falls in love with her. Directed by Goffredi Alessandrini, this 170-minute film (it was originally about an hour longer) remains engrossing throughout. Roughly speaking, it registers as an Italian Gone With the Wind, with postrevolutionary Russia taking the place of the postbellum south. Highly atmospheric and romantic, and rich with well-defined secondary characters, it manages to combine Rand's distinctive brand of hero worship and anticommunism with a great deal of narrative fluidity, effective schmaltz, and showmanship.

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