Thursday, September 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, Third Man

If you have never seen Carol Reed’s Oscar-winning film The Third Man, you should get hold of the DVD and reserve the couch for a great cinematic experience. The film first screened on 2 September 1949 and on its sixtieth birthday is as watchable as ever. It stars Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles, the screenplay is based on a book by Graham Greene and the best-selling soundtrack is a classic of film music.

The film was shot in the streets of bombed-out post-war Vienna and could almost serve as documentary with its shots of “real-life” rubble piles and fractured buildings. The wonderfully suggestive suspense sweeps you up and keeps you enthralled to the end.

The film captures the bleak days between World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. The cynicism of Harry Lime (Orson Welles) and the dog-eat-dog emphasis on individual survival at the heart of the film bring home the moral, political and ethical climate at the beginning of the post-WWII world. Indeed, we should ask if much has changed. As Harry Lime stands looking at people on the street below he is asked whether he thinks about his victims.

You know, I never feel comfortable on these sort of things. Victims? Don't be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax - the only way you can save money nowadays. Sound familiar?

© Brian Long 2009

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