Sunday, June 24, 2018

Snyder and Rand

Image may contain: shoes and outdoorI am a  fan of filmmaker Zack Snyder 's movies. Also, I hold Ayn Rand in low regard.  Yes, those two statements have a relationship, if only for the purposes of this minor rant. His reported intention to do a new film version of that miserable human's novel The Fountainhead ways heavy on my soul and forces me to admit that for all his graces as a visual stylist who is able to bring the baroque dynamics of the graphic novel to the big screen as very few can, the man, it seems, find's Rand's fascination with rabid individualism irresistible. My background was in liberal arts, with a heavy concentration in Literature and intellectual history; Rand, however compelling her notions can be too many, is a wooden, cliché-prone writer, and her worship of genius and the provision, outlined by Howard Roark in the trial scene of the novel and film, is that the work of geniuses must never be interfered nor tampered with by the masses. This sets up the rationale that billionaires and corporate heads are geniuses by definition, and nothing they are responsible for in their accumulation of capital can be tampered with, restricted, regulated, or otherwise be subject to the scrutiny of the public interest. It's a slippery slope--the libertarian quest for absolute liberty meets an anti-democratic, totalitarian impulse in a dark, intellectual back alley. Rand's apparently admires these men to the extent that she condones sexual assault of powerful men of "genius", as in Roark's taking of Dagny against her protests, and terrorist destruction, as in Roark's destruction of the Public Housing projects when he discovered officials altered his designs against his wishes. 

Synder's admiration for the novel is problematic; his Superman was a hero struggling to find himself as he tried to Do the Right thing expected of him; despite the travails of what the public through at him, he found a way to act in good faith, to serve the public good in selfless fashion. Howard Roark is a self-involved egotist willing to destroy projects dedicated to helping the needy if his personal code were transgressed upon. That defines not a hero, but a sociopath, a menace to civilians and democratic social order. It's my hope, down the line, that a director with Snyder's huge gifts as a film artist finds a better subject for a film.
There's not really much Snyder can do to interpret Fountainhead; it's meaning and intent are pretty much cemented in place ; also, it's highly unlikely the estate of Ayn Rand would allow any film director, no matter how famous, to deviate from the propaganda points that the novel’s mainstay and create something legitimately artful. In Watchman, he took Moore's ideas that are those who exceed societal norms and concluded, I think, that the consequences of that were dire that society paid for as a whole. Both BvS and MoS were matters of some going from doing things his way, by his own counsel, and learning to serve a greater good where the results were tangibly good for the lives of others. By the time JL came out, we get the idea of rugged individualists and egocentric recluses learning to be part of something greater than themselves, very un-Randian.

King Vidor did a brilliantly over the top version of The Fountainhead in 1949 starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, based on Rand's original screenplay. Though I hate Rand's ideas and consider her one of the worst things to happen to American culture in the 20th century, the film is a guilty pleasure, full of phallic symbolism and visual equations that sex is power, and that power belongs to powerful men. She was phallocentric and constructed the pathetic fallacy with obvious, groan-worthy metaphors for her beliefs--architect=MALE, architecture/buildings= ERECTIONS. Her imagination was nearly pornographic. Her story ideas or cardboard intellectualizing wouldn't survive Snyder's extravagance and spectacle, and Snyder would never be taken seriously again by any of his fans who regard him as subtler than the critical culture currently thinks. Snyder is brilliant, but Ayn Rand is awful, not a friend of democracy who worships powerful men. She is an awful prose writer, a lead-footed novelist, and a sorry philosopher who offers a thin intellectual veneer to being mean, callous and ruthless in the pursuit of your own ends. Her quest for liberty winds up with autocratic or fascistic leaders. I would have thought Snyder had a more sophisticated view of all this than this cute – rate rendition of Nietzsche’s most misrepresented ideas.

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