The Fountainhead (1949)

“The fountainhead” (1949)


Architecture (and Cinema) on the surface

This was a terrible disappointment, not a good experience at all, quite on the contrary. Being an architecture student, almost graduated, i naturally related to the theme in a more close way than the usual viewer.

Apparently this Howard Roark was vaguely inspired in American master Frank Lloyd Wright. In the first way, Wright was not as radical towards his time’s current architecture like those days Europeans (say Le Corbusier, Van der Rohe, Loos or even Taut). He was a genius on his own, but his work, though fantastic, is today dated and even than more attached to tradition than that of the names i referred and his most bold (formaly speaking i mean) buildings came towards the second half of his career already in a different cultural environment. So probably the portrait of Cooper’s character may be a reflex of the rise in the American (super) ego, as a consequence of the recent “victory” in second world war (this arrogance would hit its peak in the beginning of the nineties, but this is a side note).

Cinema and Architecture:

Anyway, what really upsets me here is that this film can be charged exactly with the same faults appointed to Roark’s detractors. I didn’t read the book, apparently it represented a mark in its time American youth, about individuality and creation spirit. I can’t talk about its author’s understanding of what architecture (not only in the last 100 years) is about. But i can justify that the people involved in this film know nothing about it: What modern architects did was separate the architecture from the decorative and sculptural notions in which romantic creators were emerged. These architects understood that architecture was first of all about space, about movement, about the forth dimension, and neglected the idea of submitting buildings exclusively to its sculptural interest. That first scene in which Roark shows his skyscraper and gets it ruined by the neoclassical elements together with the other scene in which Roark himself draws a neoclassical facade provoking Wynand are proof that the modernism was not at all understood by who conceived this project, and that they saw it merely as a “style” to be used in the same level as “neogothic” “neclassic” “neo whatever”… This is conceiving architecture by surfaces, eventually volumes, not space, not how you live the space. “Straight” lines and pure volumes are nothing if not followed by deeper notions. And it is unforgivable that this wasn’t considered specially 9 years after Welles made Citizen Kane and introduced (some) notions of how to understand a space through a camera. Welles should have done this. He would have made architecture a theme (Hitchcock just 1 year before signed his brilliant space exploration of Rope)

Lloyd Wright fully understood what space was about, not this folks, not Roark. He is himself a romantic character, filled with melodramatic feelings, longing for his lost love, lost woman, he has precisely the personality of those who in the XIX century chose to revive all the past and styles Roark is supposed to be fighting here.

Also the idea of “genius”, of creator is i would say dangerous here. Architecture departs from other arts precisely in the point that it has a social responsibility, social impact and so, simultaneously the biggest drama and glory of an architect is to be able to make coexist his personal convictions with the necessities of an audience (client) and thus create true art (architectural art, not sculpture, not decoration) that successfully marries individual conceptions with collective needs.

My evaluation: 1/5, one of my latest great disappointments, i was really looking forward to watch this… unless you are specially interested in architecture (and so might get some historical interest for when some key expressions of modern architecture showed up) stay away from this. You may be damaged if you don’t know enough of the subject.

This comment on IMDb


1 Response to “The Fountainhead (1949)”

  1. 1 yaraveronese March 25, 2008 at 2:56 am

    i just want to add that who ever wrote this report did not get anything about the movie neither the book and it’s main issue (not architecture, which is simply a path to talk about people, society, human relations, beliefs, integrity, second handers). dear writes. you should read the book, open your horizons and see beyond architecture. i can tell you this, because I’m an architect.

    best regards,

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