Yesterday evening I watched one of the greatest films ever made: Carol Reed’s The Third Man. This was broadcast on television as part of the ‘Orson Welles Christmas Season’ but I don’t see why Welles should get all the credit. Let’s hear it for the director, the cameraman, the actors Joseph Cotten and Trevor Howard; everyone who had a part in making it.
I was trying to imagine the film in colour and it absolutely wouldn’t work. It’s full of unforgettable images: the bombed city, the long road, the Prater, the cat, the sewers; the extraordinary menace of the laughing child, like some demonic infant Peter Lorre. The film recreates marvellously the feeling of a divided post-war city with a floating population of displaced persons. I think this is helped by having so much of the dialogue in untranslated German. It’s about love, loss, betrayal, disillusionment; every shot of the empty streets, the bare trees, the wonderful overcoats and hats they wore in those days, shrieks ‘cold’. Bleak? You bet, yet I could watch it over and over again.
It wouldn’t be the same without the music, the famous zither theme played by Anton Karas.
When I was a child we had the sheet music arranged for the piano, exactly like this
I used to strum the tune, although of course I’d never seen the film. I think I'll have to buy a copy.