We the Living (1942)

Not Rated   |    |  Adventure, Drama, Romance


We the Living (1942) Poster

The time is the Russian Revolution. The place is a country burdened with fear - the midnight knock at the door, the bread hidden against famine, the haunted eyes of the fleeing, the ... See full summary »


6.8/10
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  • We the Living (1942)
  • We the Living (1942)
  • Addio Kira! (1942)
  • 1 sheet movie poster
  • Addio Kira! (1942)

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16 May 2004 | ItalianGerry
Epic of anti-totalitarianism.
Goffredo Alessandrini's unauthorized 1942 version of Ayn Rand's novel "We the Living" appeared in Fascist Italy in two separate parts: NOI VIVI and ADDIO, KIRA. They are essentially one film. It was the grim story of post-revolutionary Russia, the forced collectivization of the economy and the brutal suppression of human rights, all told from the viewpoint of one woman, Kira. Ayn Rand's novel was autobiographical and was essentially a diatribe against the loss of individuality in totalitarian societies.

The film attracted a sizable audience in Italy. The Fascist government saw the film(s) as a condemnation of Soviet misery but when it became aware that the movie(s) implied a condemnation of all totalitarian states, left and right, it withdrew them from distribution.

They were not seen again and were thought lost until the early 1960s when Ayn Rand's attorneys located prints in Rome. Ayn Rand liked the movie(s) a great deal, while having reservations about certain liberties that had been taken with dialog and situations. She died in 1982 and did not live to see the re-issue of the film, which was brought about under the auspices of the Ayn Rand estate. The original two-part 4-hour version was edited down to a 170-minute one-film version. One major speech (of Fosco Giachetti) was redubbed to assert Randian philosophy, and the ending (with the death of Kira in the snow as she is shot trying to escape from Russian) was eliminated, rendering the film more optimistic.

We are glad that the film was made available in some form after having been lost for decades. After all, how many films from Fascist Italy get picked up for commercial distribution in America these days? But we also regret that Alessandrini's complete artistic achievement was truncated and tampered with. Wasn't creative integrity the theme of Rand's novel "The Fountainhead"?

Having had the good fortune of seeing the uncut integral two films on video in Italy, I can vouch for them as being more satisfying, less disjointed in that format. Let's be clear. This new version is NOT a "restoration" as some are calling it. It is, rather, an "adaptation." We are ambivalent about it but pleased to have it. And the 35mm print material is first rate.

As much as anything else, WE THE LIVING is a whopping good love story, of "Camille"-like intensity and "Anna Karenina"-like grandeur. The stunning Alida Valli as Kira and Rossano Brazzi as her wastrel lover Leo, devour the screen in their scenes together. Fosco Giachetti as Andrei, head of the secret police and willing to sacrifice honor and ideals for Kira, is poignant and unforgettable. As is this film, or as are these films.

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Trivia

The film is based on the novel "We the living" by Russian-born author Ayn Rand. When director Gofferdo Alessandrini read the book, he immediately thought it would make an excellent screen epic, but Italy was at war with the United States and acquiring rights to the novel would be a major obstacle. Taking advantage of the laisser-faire policy of the time, Alessandrini and screenwriter Anton Majano simply decided to use the novel and base their screenplay on it. Whilst he was working on another film (Nozze di sangue), Scalera Film, the production company, asked several other writers to rewrite scenes and alter the dialogue from the existing screenplay, but the final draft ended up being so different from the screenplay produced by Alessandrini and Majano that they both decided to start shooting without a script and just follow the book. The pair wrote scenes at night and handed them to the actors in the morning. As weeks went by, it soon became clear to them that it would take longer than the customary three weeks of shooting to finish this film. They also realised that there was enough material for two films, but they chose not to share this information with the actors for fear they would demand to be paid double. Despite the fact that Rand's book is an overt criticism of the communist regime and ideology, the fascist Ministry of Culture soon became aware that Alessandrini was also using the film as a platform to criticise the Mussolini government. The shooting was interrupted several times by fascist officials who demanded to see the rushes, but Alessandrini had two edited copies of the film: one that would be in line with the fascist ideology and another one which reflected his own vision of the story. In September 1942, after nearly five months of shooting, the film was completed and presented at the Venice Film Festival where it was awarded the Volpi Cup. It went on general release in November of the same year as two separate films, "Noi Vivi" and "Addio Kira!" and proved to be a resounding success with the Italian public who regarded it as an indirect indictment of the Mussolini regime. But the authorities soon got wind of this and the film was banned after five months, all copies seized and ordered to be destroyed but fortunately one negative was kept and hidden. After the war, Scalera Film approached Ayn Rand to secure the literary rights to the film so it could be re-released but she refused. A few years later, Scalera Films went into receivership and as part of the inventory of Scalera films, both "Noi Vivi" and "Addio Kira!" were turned over to a holding company, which relegated them to a vault where they remained for over twenty-five years. It was not until the late 1960's that Ayn Rand was able to locate the original nitrate negatives, still in good condition in the vault in Rome. Both films were restored, combined into one, and released (with English subtitles) in 1986 as "We the Living" at the Telluride Film festival in Colorado where it received rave reviews, over forty years after its original release.

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Adventure | Drama | Romance | War

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