Original Title: The Third Man
Country: United Kingdom
Director: Carol Reed
Genre: Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller
26.03.2020: This review was first published on 27.10.2018 and is being updated for a more complete review, together with the publishing of the YouTube Version.
Hello There! I’m dos Santos. Welcome to Ulven Reviews!
The Third Man is a classic Film-Noir directed by Carol Reed. An American author goes to Vienna to work with his childhood friend, but arrives at the moment of his burial, after a sudden, and mysterious death.
Holly Martins (played by Joseph Cotten), an American pulp author, goes to Vienna with a job offer from his childhood friend, Harry Lime (played by Orson Welles). However, when he arrives, he is told about Lime’s recent death in a car accident.
While attending to his old friend’s funeral and burial, he meets Major Calloway (played by Trevor Howard). The man invites him for a drink, and in the pub, he tells him about Lime’s criminal activities.
Unconvinced that his good friend has turned into a scoundrel before his death, Martins starts to investigate his life in Vienna. During his quest for answers, he meets with Lime’s friends, including Anna Schmidt (played by Alida Valli), a beautiful stage actress with whom he falls in love.
The more he learns about Lime’s death, the more he suspects the accident was actually a murder. So, like in his pulp stories, he plans to uncover the truth about this odd incident.
Martins learns there were three men with Lime in the moment of his death. The men were two of Lime’s friends, the Baron (played by Ernst Deutsch), Popescu (played by Siegfried Breuer), and the third man is unknown.
After the end of the Second War, the allies (France, Great Britain, Soviet Union, and the United States) divided Vienna into zones administered by each country, keeping a central district managed by the Allied Control Council.
Austria remained occupied by the allies from 1945 until 1955, when a treaty of independence was signed, granting the country its sovereignty and democracy. I believe that only happened because Austria is a white European country, differently than, for example, Vietnam.
In 1948 the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia seized power through a Coup, leading to a massive exodus of people, fleeing the poverty, and oppression of the regime (1). One of the destinies of these refugees was Vienna, although not in large numbers (2).
The extradition of a Czechoslovak character is a big deal for the plot. I couldn’t find any information about the extradition of people from Czechoslovakia by the Soviets. If you know something about extraditions of this kind, let me know in the comments section.
I think I was sleepy when I first watched The Third Man because I couldn’t remember anything about the movie until I watched it again. Probably for the same reason, my emotional response to the film was also different from the current one.
The story is fascinating, and now, I remember it clearly. It’s a very intriguing mystery that makes us interested in it from the beginning until the end of the movie.
The movie is set in a place stricken by the Second World War, and such a traumatic event leaves deep scars in the people. The sorrow of the city is used as an element of the plot and beautifully translated into the film.
It’s a movie of somber nature, and even the comic bits are cynic, which works in this gloomy and melancholic tone. As usual, the humor is present in the beginning, and when it gradually turns more serious, it contrasts well with the early lighthearted parts.
I like most of the characters, but my favorite is Holly Martins, I empathized with him since the start. He’s witty, determined, and has a humanist moral compass. Harry Lime is really quotable, but it’s a despicable character.
I also liked Major Calloway, Sgt. Paine (played by Bernard Lee) and Anna, they’re both satisfactory characters. However, I have some issues regarding one specific aspect of Anna’s character, that I’ll only talk about when I get into the spoilers.
The Third Man won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, leaving names like Sunset Blvd. and All About Eve behind. I have a thing for cinematography, and I absolutely loved this one, especially the use of shadows.
The expressionist cinema is usually associated with the ’20s German movement. Film-Noir, in general, has its cinematography inspired by this style. The Third Man is an excellent example of this, the Dutch Angles, shadows, vertigo-inducing shots, simply amazing.
The only thing I mildly disliked was the score. The musical theme of the movie became widely recognized to this day, and it’s perfect for comic scenes, but I didn’t like it for the serious scenes. It felt off for my ears, too cheerful.
Now, I’ll talk about some spoilers, so that’s your warning. If you want to avoid spoilers, you’ll have some seconds to close this video and maybe check another review. The channel has reviews for many tastes.
Start of Spoilers
Anna is actually a Czechoslovak living in Vienna with a fake passport, made by Harry Lime as an act of kindness. She thinks the only thing against the law he ever did was this, but she is wrong, and still in love with him even after his death. Once she learns of his fraudulent ways and the evil he has done, even to kids, she is disappointed, but not for long, later even trying to help him escape.
Later the characters and us (the audience) find out that Lime is alive and well, living in the underground. He was actually the third man. He faked his own death, and the man buried in his place, we can only assume, was killed by him.
Anna’s behavior is a legitimate choice of the filmmaker’s part. But if instead of trying to help him, she decided to stay away from Lime, it would not change anything plotwise, and it would make much more sense.
Put yourself in her place. First, you find out that the person you loved and thought was honest, stole penicillin, diluted it, sold it to children that ended up dead because of it. Then, you find out this person faked his/her own death without giving you a heads up, leaving you to suffer from grief, so the person could keep profiting from children’s death.
I might be alone here, but that would be a deal-breaker for me. Even if I couldn’t just block my feelings for this person, I wouldn’t want to have anything to do it him/her for the rest of my life. But not Anna, she decided to try to help Lime.
End of Spoilers
Despite the things that annoyed me, The Third Man is near perfect. Now that I have a clear memory of the movie, I also have much more affection for it. I’ll give The Third Man 10 Moons.
That’s it for now. Don’t forget to don’t profit off of sickness and death of the less privileged. Bye.