The Third Man (1949)

Ok, so first things first, I don’t want people to be put off because this film is an old one and yes it is in black and white. But this film is a classic film-noir. And you shouldn’t be put off by the differences from modern films, because as I said, this is a classic! Sad to say, it has taken me this long to watch it anyway, but nevertheless I got there and saw this great film and I was not disappointed.

The film revolves around the main protagonist, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), who visits Vienna in hope to get a job from his friend. However, on arriving to Vienna, he finds out that his friend, Harry Lime, has died. Martins absorbs the detective role as he tries to discover what actually happened to him after a woman suggests perhaps it wasn’t an accident. This woman is Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli), someone who becomes a main part of the film, her love for Harry dragging her along to discover what happened, warped in Martins’ leads. Also on another angle is Major Calloway (Trevor Howard), police officer in Vienna who himself wants to discover what has happened meanwhile knowing more than Martins does the whole way. Although, we only know what Martins knows, so we are dragged into this mystery and sucked in to wanting to know the truth, uncover what has happened, when there are many characters telling a different story. I found myself not knowing who to trust, unknown to who was telling the truth. For example, when Harry’s porter, Karl (Paul Hörbiger) reveals that there was a third man involved, yet no one else seems to know about this…

The Third Man - Martins

‘The Third Man’ constantly has something happening. There were no moments in the one hour and forty minutes that I was bored. There are moments of tension, the audience is gripped, intense. Even, among this, some small comical moments, and I mean small among the mystery of the case. It’s obviously not a comedy and you wouldn’t watch it for this, but there are moments of silly chuckle comments, just snarky, witty comments. An example I remember clearly, would be the balloon man at a tense part of the film. But most of all, this film resembles a mystery drama in which the audience has no clue in how to guess what will occur.

The film is set after the war in Vienna. Explained at the beginning of the film, where Vienna is split into four-powers; a Russian sector, a French one, a British and an American. The historical setting at the beginning of the film is context relatable to when it was released in 1949, but obviously this is very different to Austria now. Again, stressing that this is an old film, but shouldn’t be treated any differently to others we’ve seen recently. Also, there are parts of the film that are in a different language, for example, I think many parts are in German, however this doesn’t affect the English viewer as things are explained with an English audience in mind.

The Third Man - mystery

Overall, I was warped into this film, and really enjoyed it. I would happily watch it again, and stress that if you like mystery films to give this one a go. It really does throw ideas about to get you thinking on one course to realise that one isn’t true. Perhaps, Holly Martins should have gone home the moment he arrived in Vienna like everyone told him too, but instead he is caught into something he is determined to solve, even if he is just a novelist.


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