The Third Man
The Third Man (1949) – Originally written October 2003
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For a long time I’ve wanted to view this film. Ultimately though, it was sitting in a lecture on films a week ago when the lecturer said “this is my all time favourite movie” that I ended up being determined enough to have a viewing, my opinion now that it’s finished? Good ol’ Orson made it enjoyable.
I know this film is in the top 50 films of all time according to IMDb, and compared to most films on that list, it’s definitely true. The acting is first class, cinematography worthy of it’s Oscar, and the story is a Graham Greene story, which also counts for something. The problem is that, I can’t help but feel that this film has got a bit too dated. In 1949, the vision of Vienna in ruins on the cinema screen must have been majestic, moving and a beautiful tribute to the ultimate futility of war, but now in 2003, a lot of the time I feel the beauty is lost.
As well as the dating of the film, one other thing bugs me, and that’s that truthfully, Holly Martin (played by Joseph Cotten) and Anna Schmidt (played by Alida Valli) infuriate me almost constantly. The characters are often whiny and Anna especially is a source for constant aggravation. Therefore, with the two main characters bugging me, I was left with the short amount of screen time which featured Orson.
I confess here and now that up until today, I’d never properly witnessed Orson Welles acting properly. I’d heard the name spoken with awe and amazement, but it wasn’t until the scene on the Ferris Wheel that this awe suddenly made sense. Truthfully, I’m starting to wonder just how high De Niro and Pacino (2 and 1 respectively) would have got in the top 100 actors of all time on British TV had the voters witnessed Orson’s performances. During this film, Orson seems to be able to portray a character who was described as that lecturer of mine as “Pure Evil” and yet to me he almost seemed to be sensitive and complex. Orson saves this film, just by the mention of his characters name, and by being able to show the character in a small scene. If it wasn’t for him, would this film really be as highly rated?
“The Third Man” is portrayed as being one of the best films of all time. For characterisation, cinematography and sound, it has to be in the top five, however for dating so easily, having an annoying main character and for being a bit slow at times, it suffers. Give me Orson, give me the concept, but I wish it hadn’t lost part of it’s relevance.
“In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” – Orson Welles as Harry Lime