The film is based on the bestselling 1943 novel of the same name by Ayn Rand. Coming across such a movie that had a lot of critical reviews, I wished to give my short analysis of whether it is worth watching or not. Well, that option is left onto the young architects

Movies for Architects: The Fountainhead
The timeless story of love, hate and architecture – The fountainhead_©https://www.amazon.com

 “No, The man who works for others without payment is a slave” – Dominique.

Going through few architecture movies of all time, recently I came across this movie filled with drama and philosophy, The Fountainhead, which is a 1949 American, black-and-white drama film directed by King Vidor, that stars some eminent stars during that time, Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, Raymond Massey, Robert Douglas, and Kent Smith. The film is based on the bestselling 1943 novel of the same name by Ayn Rand. Coming across such a movie that had a lot of critical reviews, I wished to give my short analysis of whether it is worth watching or not. Well, that option is left onto the young architects.

This 1hour 54 minutes film depicts the life of an individualistic young architect, Howard Roark, who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision, following his battle to style what the general public sees as modern architecture, which he believes is superior to other forms, despite resistance from a historically-minded architectural establishment. Roark’s complex relationships with the individuals, who assist or hinder his progress, or both, allow the film to be both a romantic drama and a philosophical work. Roark represents Rand’s embodiment of the human spirit, and his struggle represents the struggle between individualism and collectivism.

Later He falls in love with heiress Dominique but ends the relationship when he is finally able to construct buildings according to his wishes.

The genre of the movie is pure drama, romance, and passion with only little parts depicting architecture as its classified backdrop. It portrays some of the life-lessons of jealousy, enviousness, and the thrill to move ahead of others is what the movie is about, which is quite relentlessly depicted and quite relevant in Architecture.

“They hate you because they know they will neither corrupt you nor rule you”.

Based on some studies and pictures, Manhattan skyscrapers of the latest York like McGraw Hill building and Woolworth building inspired Rand to write down a unique view on Architecture, which later was turned into this classic movie, which formed the background and development of the story-telling, showcasing passion and romance. Also, Rand’s descriptions of Roark’s buildings were inspired by the work of F.L.Wright and also depicted the grand life he lived, falling in love with many women, and still being the best architect the world has ever seen.

It’s the kind of dazzling film, shot in a fascinating German Expressionist style that veers from being silly to being provocative. The Fountainhead is by turns exciting, handsome, astoundingly awkward, fully committed, untowardly relentless, very strange, and slightly creepy in its compulsive watch ability. A rather superficial film that does not convey the philosophy of Ayn Rand to the full extent. The rooms of the offices were too big, the characters felt uneasy moving bouts. And few dialogues which catastrophe buildings being “ A building has integrity just like a man”, which formulates an imaginative philosophy and creates good dialogue command with a great metaphor between structure and life of a man. The movie deliberately tried to show that architects provide “both art and a basic need of men’s survival” and drew a connection between architecture and individualism, painting periods that had improvements in architecture which also had more freedom for the individual.

Roark’s modernist approach to architecture is contrasted with that of most of the other architects in the novel. In the opening chapter, the dean of his architecture school tells Roark that the simplest architecture must copy the past instead of innovating or improving. Roark repeatedly loses jobs with architectural firms and commissions from clients because he’s unwilling to repeat conventional

The visual style, in addition to such other artistic touches as nifty visuals, supplement the aesthetic value which is decidedly as impressive, if not more impressive than anything else in this narratively sloppy affair of a respectable style, which architecture admirers can look for and it’s quite engaging for an architect to watch this 110 minutes movie.

Hence, The Fountainhead is about the struggle between the individual and society. The movie promotes the themes of Objectivism (people should make individual, objective decisions) and Humanism (the idea that humans, not supernatural beings, hold power and importance). This two-hour melodrama which is all over the place with its pacing and structure, with enough of the source material’s dynamicity retained for the messy structuring to lead to some serious focal inconsistencies which make the final product almost exhaustingly convoluted. The movie can lot of dimensions and perceptions based on the different kinds of audiences watching it, but still, there is something consistent throughout the storytelling, and that is conventions because even though there is a potential for uniqueness, the execution of a promising story is so riddled with tropes that the final product stands as just plain trite, with nothing new, – despite its following themes of rejecting conformity to artistry, making King Vidor’s “The Fountainhead” a mediocre piece of dated, melodramatic filmmaking, thus rating it 3 out of 5.

Thereby, I would recommend architects and architecture lovers to go for this “one-time worth watching the movie”, not for the drama but the extravaganza of buildings and grandeur of city life with life hurdles. Recommended for a one-time watch! 

One can watch this movie in Amazon Prime: https://www.amazon.com/Fountainhead-Gary-Cooper/dp/B002RT2BXQ or Vimeo, Youtube, or Google Play.

Ellora Ghosh
Author

Architect, self – taught illustrator with a significant interest in writing and blogging. The writer is a vivid reader of classics and loves to be a search engine along with being closet singer. Born and raised in the plains of Assam, but obsessed with French culture and cuisine, she is a travel enthusiast with wandering plans to Europe at the top of her bucket – list. Apart from all these, she has a keen eye on details and loves to talk and write about what she predominantly observes and seeks to learn.

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