Utterly ridiculous yet strangely compelling. The characters are… MoreUtterly ridiculous yet strangely compelling. The characters are caricatures of philosophical concepts to the point that the situations they find themselves in seem to be fabrications just to showcase their singularity. Consider the opening montage of scenes, where different people are attempting to make the ultra-individualist protagonist conform to public taste. They are so overdone that one cannot take the drama seriously. A character like Roark (Gary Cooper) is an unstoppable force of nature, an iron will - it cannot possibly be good material for a drama. What is compelling though is how secondary characters react to him and how they are magnetized to his personality like Wynand does (Massey). At least Wynand faces some internal struggles. I suppose Ayn Rand wants us to see Roark as an exemplar, but he is no realistic character and he lacks depth - he is not human in other words. He is her interpretation of the Overman. However, Nietzsche would be horrified by how Ayn Rand sees his philosophy of individualism and when she tries to link this philosophy to American values and capitalism (see Roark's monologue in the court), the whole endeavor seems ludicrous.
However, the strong direction by King Vidor matches the exuberance of the script and manages to create an interesting world full of tall buildings for the characters to dwell in. The beautiful cinematography helps too. No matter its failings, the film will make you think, although not neccessarily in the way Ayn Rand would like you to do.