WE THE LIVING is the story of beautiful, strong-willed Kira Argounova (Alida Valli). It is the early 1920s and Kira’s family is gradually learning to cope with Russia’s sweeping social and ideological changes in the wake of the Revolution. However, 18 year-old Kira, whose goal is to become an engineer, loathes the new order and openly defies those who pressure her to conform. Kira encounters a young fugitive, Leo Kovalensky, (Rossano Brazzi), who is hiding from the GPU—the secret police. Unknown to her family or friends, Kira meets secretly with Leo and they soon fall in love. Following a close call with the GPU, the two lovers attempt to escape Russia on a smuggler’s ship. They are caught and Leo is taken away. Kira learns from a GPU officer that Leo is the son of a former aristocrat, an admiral who was executed for fighting against the Communists. A sympathetic officer takes a liking to Kira and secures Leo’s release. Leo moves into a small apartment that was sectioned out of his father’s former mansion. Kira, defying family and convention, moves in with him. Soon, kira meets Andrei Taganov (Fosco Giachetti), a top Party official and idealistic Communist, and after an initial clash of ideologies, a mutual respect forms between the two. Unable to find any work other than hard, manual labor, Leo’s health deteriorates. Kira learns that Leo has developed tuberculosis and must be sent to a sanatorium for treatment. She tries desperately to get him accepted in a state-run institution, but officials refuse to help someone with Leo’s upper-class background. Her last hope is an expensive private sanatorium. Kira must somehow find the money or Leo will die. Andrei reveals his love for Kira in an agonized confession. Seeing a way to save Leo, Kira pretends to return Andrei’s love. Leo leaves for the sanatorium, never suspecting that Kira is using Andrei’s generous gifts to pay for the treatment. Months later Leo returns, his health restored, but his spirit turned cynical. Despite Kira’s pleas, Leo gets deeply involved in a dangerous black market venture. Meanwhile, Andrei’s love for Kira deepens and he begins to question the ideals of his party. Still unaware of Kira’s relationship with Leo, Andrei urges Kira to escape with him to the West-an idea that was once contrary to everything he believed in. Kira rejects his plan. Later, Andrei learns that Communist party members are behind the black market venture. Any revolutionary idealism he still has left is destroyed when Andrei reports his findings to the party bosses and they order him to arrest only one man: Leo. The dramatic climax of WE THE LIVING comes when Andrei arrives at Leo’s home to arrest him. Andrei discovers a closet full of Kira’s clothes, revealing what he assumes is her infidelity. Kira arrives home as Leo is taken away and is left alone with the enraged Andrei. Kira unleashes her fury at Andrei for being part of a system that forced her and Leo into a desperate struggle for their lives. Andrei’s once-proud purpose in life is now utterly shattered, yet his worship of Kira is restored. In full knowledge of the consequences, he arranges to have Leo set free and, confronting his former comrades, denounces the system he fought for all his life. He returns to his flat and takes his own life. Leo, home from prison, confronts Kira over her affair with Andrei and announces that he is leaving her forever. Kira, realizing that Leo’s spirit has been forever crushed out of him, chooses not to reveal the real motivation behind her relationship with Andrei. Still undefeated, Kira vows to escape Russia, this time alone, on foot, across a wilderness border. She knows there is little chance she will survive, but the alternative is never to know freedom. Before leaving, Kira pauses at the deserted garden, remembering bittersweetly her first meeting with Leo, and then disappears into the night.
Producer: Goffredo Alessandrini; Director: Writer: Anton Giulio Majano, Ayn Rand (book); Film released by Duncan Scott Productions, Inc.; Starring: Alida Valli (as Kira), Rossano Brazzi (as Leo), and Fosco Giachetti (as Andrei)
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