Saturday, February 12, 2011

Atlas Shrugged

For the last several years, as they have been working on the script, I have anticipated the release of Atlas Shrugged, the movie version of the Ayn Rand novel.    There have been several attempts to capture Rand in video.  In 1949 there was a version of the Fountainhead, which from my point of view was pretty close to the book but is now quite dated.

Rand is hard to capture.  Her writing style was often pedantic.  There is a passage in Atlas Shrugged which goes on for 40 or so pages as a soliloquy that even for a libertarian is hard to slog through.  She needed an editor.  The Fountainhead is filmed in black and white in the 1950s realist style.  The movie was scripted by Rand so it has all the characteristics of a Rand novel.  

I've always liked Atlas Shrugged better than the Fountainhead.  For one thing, while both present Rand's objectivist philosophy, from my point of view Howard Roark is more a character of one against the establishment.  The story in Atlas Shrugged is more about the power of government.   If anyone was a precursor to public choice economics, it was Dagny Taggart, Hank Reardon and John Galt.   From the preliminary discussion about the movie and from the press reports, this first part of a trilogy, is supposed to stick to the story relatively well.   It is slated for release on April 15- not surprisingly on income tax day.   I am hopeful that the movie version - delayed for several decades - will accomplish two objectives.  First, I hope the movie is true to the book.  Rand's philosophy is complex but useful - especially in an era where nonsense like TARP has become an economic philosophy.  But second, I am hopeful that with a skillful editor that the excesses in Rand's writing style will be left on the cutting room floor.  That will be a hard needle to thread but if both are accomplished we should all be grateful.

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