FMP Research – The Film Review Blog – The Third Man


The Third Man is directed by Carol Reed, who also directed the 1968 musical ‘Oliver!’, and stars Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli.

The story follows a writer named Holly Martins, played by Joseph Cotten, who travels to post-war Vienna in Austria because of his childhood friend Harry Lime, played by Orson Welles, offers him a job. He arrives only to find out Harry mysteriously died in a traffic accident. Holly seems sceptical about Harry’s death and is positive that his death was a murder which is the opposite of what everyone else says.

Joseph Cotten plays Holly Martins, giving a memorable and terrific performance as a strong-minded writer who looks where he shouldn’t and gets into a lot of danger by asking the wrong questions. He is a very human character in that he’s very stubborn yet determined to get to the bottom of what’s going on. The surroundings of the character really help us relate to him. He can’t speak the language of where he is, so he as to ask what people are saying and with no subtitles, the audience relies on him to work it out.

The character of Harry Lime is a snarky and inhuman character, not caring about people who take his phoney drug. He became deep in the black market, selling counterfeit medicine that kills instead of saves. Leading up to when Holly was coming over for the job he offered him, the police were hot on his trail so, with the help of his associates, he fakes his death. Throughout the film, we get to understand what Harry was up to and the devastating effects his product has on the human body.

He is one of the most putrid yet lovable villains ever to be thought up, making it onto countless top villain lists. If you are looking for ways to make such a classic villain, this is the film to watch and even though he only comes in halfway through the film, he steals the whole thing. He is set up from the beginning as the mysterious person, only a hand full of people saw what happened when he supposedly died. But the build-up and the anticipation of meeting him is all satisfied when the face of Orson Welles is revealed and he puts on his devilish smile, classic.

Image result for orson welles the third man gif

It’s been known for a long time that Orson Welles is a marvel when it comes to film. He excels in both acting and directing compared to others. He would normally direct and act at the same time, as he did with his 1942 film, Citizen Kane, but for The Third Man he wrote the script, taking massive influence from the novel of the same name, and let another director take the reins. But it is well known he was a real pain when it came to filming. Orson wasn’t present for the first two weeks of production, forcing people to stand in for him like the crew and even the director. When he did show up, he basically threw out the script, improvising most of his lines which lead us to the famous cuckoo clock speech, so it wasn’t all bad.

The cinematography is truly outstanding, filming a lot of the scenes on location in the bomb-ruined streets of Vienna. The film popularised the use of the Dutch angle which is where the camera is tilted sideways giving it a unique style, making everything feel out of place and creating long shadows. In a place that was destroyed by the events of World War 2, the Dutch angle really makes Holly’s perspective of things show if he’s confused or not. The Dutch angle is used when he’s being chased, not knowing where he is and blindly going wherever he thinks is right. The Dutch angle is also present when he is trying to figure something or someone out. The camera is Holly’s mind and really helps the audience understand the character a lot more.

The music of this film is a high-pitched set of songs giving at lively an upbeat feel and gives the feeling Holly is always on the move. The main theme has become one of the most recognisable songs ever made making it into films like David Fincher’s 1995 film, Seven and the 2002 action film, xXx starring Vin Diesel. All the music was played on the same instrument, a zither and was performed by the then unknown Anton Karas who was approached by Carol Reed at a party to write a few songs for the film but then gave him the task to write all the music for the film. It’s a true masterpiece and adds so much to the tone of the film.

The writing is very well done, throwing you into a place you are unfamiliar with, just like Holly. For the audience, Holly is the most relatable character in the film because, with no subtitles for the foreign language, we need to ask others what they said or ask them to repeat themselves but in English just like Holly. This is the best way to make the audience think to try and work out what they are saying because it’s written in a way that even if you don’t speak the same language, you still know what they are saying with body positioning, hand movements and the tone they speak in. If we had a translator with Holly everywhere he went, we wouldn’t have this mystery, it would be very easy to work everything out.

In a film that has amazing writing, directing, acting and style, I take everything into account when it comes to making my film. In my eyes, this is a perfect film, captivating its audience with its use of words, cinematography and story. It throws you into Holly’s shoes as you attempt to find out what is going on, revealing awful truths and coming to terms with what is really going on. With Orson Welles on board making the film, you know it’s going to be good which is why I’m giving The Third Man a…



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