The Third Man, Historical Analysis
A Review of the Film
The Third Man, was filmed in post World War II Vienna, releasing in 1949. The film was written by Graham Greene, directed by Carol Reed, and produced by the American David Selznick and the British Michael Korda. The black and white, pessimistic film “is one of the greatest British thrillers of the post-war era, in the best Alfred Hitchcock tradition, and beautifully produced….It was voted the #1 British Film of the 20th Century” (Tim Dirkes, Filmsite Review) Holly Martins, the unemployed American writer of western novels, comes to Vienna out of disparity. Holly gets invited to Vienna to work by his childhood friend, Harry Lime: It is their friendship that illustrates the disparity in the post World War II era, it describes the deception in people, the lack of morality, and friendship: the underlying plot and theme of the film in The Third Man.
1) How do the producers utilize the setting to make the audience feel the hopelessness in Post-War era, to accent the themes of deception, friendship, and morality in the film? 2) How does the characterization of Holly Martins show the real-life historical attitude of the average person in the post war era,? 3) How does the conflict express the themes in the Third Man? 4) Why is the theme of the movie most important vs. setting, conflict and characterization? In The Third Man, themes of the movie are expressed incoherently though setting, characterization, and conflict. The key element to understanding the theme throughout the movie is to see where and how the producers utilized the setting, conflict, and characterization to undertone the real meaning of the film. Theme is the most important literary element in The Third Man. It explores a basic understanding in the attitudes of the post World War Viennese people, and surrounding cultures: deception, friendship, and morality.
Setting: How do the producers utilize the setting to make the audience feel the hopelessness in Post-War era, to accent the theme of deception, friendship, and morality in the film? The Third Man takes place in 1949 Vienna, and begins with a montage showing the aftermath in postwar Vienna. The film begins with the unusual close up of a Zither, a small detail in understanding Vienna’s post war culture. It is played quietly through the montage to undertone the sarcastic sounding narrator. In the montage, Beethoven’s statue is seen, then immediately jumps to a shot of black-marketeers. The two shots quickly show the films contrast and depiction of Vienna in the late 1940s: a city of with a vast history of culture and crime. Before World War II, Vienna was especially known to the homes of the most classical artists. The establishing shot is made of Beethoven and shifts to contrast the destruction of change to the culture: sarcastically hinted by the jaunty Zither music in the background and narrator: “Wonderful! What a hope they had, all strangers to the place- and none of them could speak the same language...” (The Third Man, Scene I) Postwar Vienna was a changed city. The Third Man depicted the theme though the usage of a realistic setting and life portrayal. Throughout the film, the settings are dark, cold, and damp. People are dressed in dark clothing, and the Viennese people seem pessimistic, much like the worlds attitudes of the people in the time. “. . . And the charming Viennese? Hard faces full of misery, fear, and suspicion. And the beautiful women of Vienna? The only real beauty is a foreigner”(Phillips, pg. 169) The producers filmed mostly at night, and used high contrast lighting, and powerful HMI floodlights to shine down streets and across the broken walls, (Richard Meisk, Wrong Geometries In Third Man) The Third Man combines the war damage, internally and externally (broken images) with darkness, with shadows and lights so sharply defined. Even though there is darkness in the setting,...
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