NAME: Samuel Osagie COURSE: Film Noir Review TUTOR: Chirs Hughes ASSIGNMENT TITLE: The Third Man

DATE: 27-4-2009

The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir directed by Carol Reed and written by novelist
Graham Greene. The black and white, pessimistic film is one of the greatest British thrillers of the post-war era, a visually-stylish thriller - a paranoid story of social, economic, and moral corruption in a depressed, rotting and crumbling, in a post-world-war-II Vienna. Somebody called this film, “a genuine and endlessly rewatchable classic”. Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) a third-rate American pulp novelist arrives in post-war Vienna to visit his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) only to find that Harry is dead. At the graveside, Martins meets outwardly affable Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) and actress Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli), who is weeping copiously. When Calloway tells Martins that the late Harry Lime was a thief and murderer, the loyal Martins is at first outraged. Holly begins to investigate Harry's mysterious death. Gradually, he discovers not only that Calloway was right but also that the man lying in the coffin in the film's early scenes was not Harry Lime at all--and that Lime is still very much alive (he was the mysterious "third man" at the scene of the fatal accident. Holly's conscience is torn between Calloway and the beautiful Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli), Harry's lover who urges Holly to remain loyal to his friend. The Third Man is a fine example of British film noir. Reed uses gothic visual touches such as subtly canted low/high camera angles, ominous shadows, and dank, fog-filled streets to depict Vienna as a sinister labyrinth. The labyrinth becomes a visual motif echoed in the film’s chases up circular staircases, through winding streets and bombed out buildings, and culminating in the hunt-down of Lime in the cavernous underground sewer system. Lime’s physical and geographical positioning in the frame can also be seen as a reflection of his “Nietszchean” moral philosophy. In several key scenes Lime is positioned high above the ground, such as during the famous Ferris wheel scene, and later when he appears atop a mountain of rubble. His symbolic moral ‘fall’ comes in the end, when he is hunted down like a rat in the city’s sewer system. This ending, with Lime being ferociously tracked down from every direction, recalls Peter Lorre’s fate in M (another reference to M is the old man seen near the end selling balloons).

Limes 'superhuman' moral high ground the lowly gutters

The same scene of the film that began the point of crisis in the story was equal the point of resolution. The film ended at the funeral where the true story began. 1