The third man is unmistakably tall
Film Noir Friday: The Third Man
* This review will avoid some major details of the story
In the years immediately following World War II, many European countries found themselves in a pile of rubble, their economies destroyed and their people still reeling from the very real nightmare they had endured for 6 long years. Even some of Europe’s most historic and almost mythical cities have fallen victim to heavy bombing or urban wars, or both at worst. Among the said cities that were forced to endure a difficult recovery period was the capital of Austria, Vienna. Vienna was in an even bigger political quagmire than Berlin. While the latter was occupied by two of the victorious nations of World War II, Vienna had four adoptive fathers, the British, the French, the United States and the Soviet Union. What better setting, with so many cooks in the kitchen, for a story of suspense, deception, and that moral ambiguity for which the noir genre is so fondly known?
Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), author of various Western paperbacks, has just arrived in Vienna at the request of an old friend he hasn’t seen for a year, Harry Lime (Orsen Welles), who promised him a job opportunity in the Austrian capital when he learned of Harry’s death. After a day or two of shock and drunkenness, Holly’s curiosity grows as to the circumstances in which her boyfriend’s luck has ended. The doorman (Paul Horbiger) of the apartment complex he stayed at explains that Harry was hit by a passing truck as he tried to cross the street, a story that British Major Calloway (Trevor Howard), responsible for investigation, believes, but other witnesses and clues seem to point to a different kind of conclusion, although a Holly can’t point her finger with certainty at this point. The plot thickens all the more once Holly meets Harry’s former lover, Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli), who may know more than she reveals. As Holly runs through Vienna, questioning more contacts and annoying Major Calloway, who insists Harry may have earned what he got for the kind of racket he was involved in before he passed away , an incredible twist puts the notions conceived by everyone in free fall.
Carol reed The third man is a film noir of a different race. Many recognizable features of the genre are there for viewers to appreciate, but the director and his cast give the film a whole different life and set it apart from the majority of the other entries. Here’s a movie in which all of the socially and politically uncomfortable feelings that crept into the psyche of Americans after WWII are surprisingly present, except that this story takes place across the Atlantic, where the majority of the fighting took place. It’s as if Reed, clearly fascinated by the familiar black characteristics, has decided to put his own stamp on the genre by taking Americans (both in the film and the audience) to the region considered to be the origin of all their post-war angst. . There is mistrust, there are nasty individuals, and still others who, like the real black man, are less heroic than we usually see on screen but still have to fulfill the role of ” hero ”. There is a wicked plot and a more wicked truth at the heart of it all, all dressed up in stylistic cinematography that artificially and beautifully arouses the senses in both heartwarming and uncomfortable ways. It always feels different because of its location and the many very anti-American (and therefore atypical in a sense) supporting characters that populate this universe.
There is a brilliant exhibit piece (a rarity) at the very beginning of the image in which a voiceover briefly describes the situation in post-war Vienna, namely how four great powers entered the same city. and each chose a district of it to administer. In the middle was the international quarter where none of the members of the quartet had the sole power to govern, rather it was watched over by the lawyers of the four foreign states. The most critical line in this short sequence is that these four powers don’t even share the same languages except the British and the English, and even then the citizens of the two nations claim to have quite different manners. Vienna was therefore at that time a city that had lost its true identity, forced to reckon with the after-effects of the terrible suffering endured during the war, which is ostensibly what so many black films talk about from a decidedly American point of view. The protagonist, Holly Martins, is an American, but displaced, having invested her hopes for a better future in a country he does not know, where the majority of the population speaks a language he does not understand. That’s where part of the sparkle of the film lies, bringing together the familiarity of film noir, in this case emanating from an unfamiliar setting (a foreign country) with a new kind of protagonist, in this case a Familiar American. The whole film therefore functions as an astonishing contradiction in which all the pieces fit together perfectly. Just as it was argued in the previous paragraph that the frame makes Reed’s movie stand unique, this same element of The third man what one would assume the movie would be completely different ends up being the one that actually supports its inclusion in the genre, while the only element that would normally be a shoo-in as a noir trope ends up being the weirdness.
Speaking of the aforementioned Holly Martins, Joseph Cotten, an actor who has more than once collaborated with the inimitable Orson Welles (their most famous effort of course being Citizen Kane, often referred to as the greatest film ever made), is outstanding in The third man. His performance exudes a certain credibility which allows the spectator to encourage him very easily during his excursions in the streets and bars of Vienna. True, he may not be exactly the same fabric as the other protagonists so often portrayed in black, as he is more innocent and pure than his predecessors, this quality makes him an excellent hero for the story for all. reasons mentioned earlier, mainly that his expedition to Europe opened his eyes to horrible things about the gravity of the human psyche (much like the American soldiers before him). Cotten, with his friendly face, manners, and speech, makes Martins’ character a lot of fun to watch. Anytime he may be in danger, viewers sincerely hope he will come out of it unscathed. In a movie packed with entertaining performances, it’s good to know that the lead actor gives his best instead of being overshadowed by those who support him. Nevertheless, those who do the support are quite good, including Alida Valli, who plays Anna with an air of incurable melancholy. She loved Harry, despite her apparent recognition of the sort of schemes he was engaged in. She is less the femme fatale in history than a fatalist woman who has learned to live with the despicable state of her country of origin. Trevor Howard is equally excellent, though his character sees it differently as his very cheerful and pithy British demeanor keeps him going despite the horror that has plagued Vienna like an unstoppable virus. James Bond fans will notice a much younger and stockier Bernard Lee as the right-hand man of Major Calloway.
The unmistakable sense of paranoia is fleshed out by the phenomenal work of cinematographer Robert Krasker. Shot in Vienna, it would seem obvious that a movie has to be gorgeous, but that’s not exactly what the movie is aiming for, or what the movie is about. should to aim. It is a physically beautiful place whose face has been strongly marked, and these scars have altered its inner character. As a result, Vienna, apart from being very attractive in some scenes, looks gloomy, if not downright spooky in others. It’s a much more sinister and out of control Vienna than most viewers are used to seeing. The brilliant cinematography plays a huge role in the setting throughout the film, but especially in two key sequences where Holly chases someone, once at street level and once in the city’s sewage system. . The sound is the medium of the sights, the most memorable and the most inventive being of course the score, animated by the zither score of Anton Karas, resembling a lot like a guitar (and resembling a lute) but with a sound much more pronounced.
There are few black people who can match Carol Reed’s class and personality The third man, try as they can. Here is a movie that many claim to be one of the greatest of all time and it would be hard to claim otherwise.