For this project I watched ‘The Third Man’ film from 1949 shoot in Vienna. It is a dark moody film shot in black and white with extensive shadows, the movie makes use of minimal backgrounds but each is carefully lit to create an intense ‘film noir’ thriller.
I had to produce a narrative series of 5-6 photographs and create the same mood , the sense of unease , the same thrill of an impending narrative change while using similar types of locations as the film.
Scripted by Graham Greene, directed by Carol Reed and set in Cold War Vienna, THE THIRD MAN is an undisputed masterpiece of the British cinema and ranks amongst the 60 most important and most popular movies in the history of film. It won an Oscar for its cinematography, and was nominated for its direction and editing. It also won the BAFTA (the British version of the Academy Awards) for Best British Film and took the top prize at the 1949 Cannes Film Festival.
In the post Second World War, the unemployed pulp fiction writer Holly Martins arrives in Vienna to meet with his old friend from school, Harry Lime, who has offered him a job. On the arrival, he learns that Harry has just died, hit by a truck in front of his building, and he goes to his funeral. Holly Martins sees a beautiful woman, Anna Schmidt, and a friend of Harry and sooner he learns that Anna was Harry’s lover. Maj. Calloway, who is commanding the investigation, offers the ticket to Holly return home, but while waiting for the trip, he talks to two friends of Harry that tell that they had been the firsts to help his friend. However, the porter of Harry’s building tells that there was a mysterious third man that helped Harry and Holly Martins becomes intrigued with the inconsistency and decides to investigate further. Sooner he discloses that Harry Lime was the leader of a gang that robbed penicillin from the military hospital to adulterate and resell it, and has caused the death and anomalies in many children. He continues to investigate and he has a great surprise when he finds who the third man is.
When Korda sent Greene to Vienna to research the city’s potential for a suspense-packed story, Vienna was far removed from its popular image of music and good life. It was marred by ghastly ruins, governed by the four victorious powers and policed by an international patrol. It had become a playground of Cold War politics and notorious hub of international espionage. People were destitute and the black market was thriving. The city was packed with refugees many of whom were from Eastern Europe trying, like Anna in the film, to obtain false papers to avoid repatriation by the Soviets. Indeed a perfect backdrop for a tense mystery thriller story!
But Graham Greene wanted more than just cheap entertainment about a man setting out to clear his dead friend’s name and himself becoming involved in the city’s criminal underworld. Using Vienna as a metapher of a world that had physically and morally fallen into pieces, he made it into a pessimistic story of social, political and moral corruption. It is not only about crime – the ruthless trafficking in penicillin – but also of redemption, not only of friendship but also its betrayal. At the same time he allowed THE THIRD MAN to become a most authentic documentary of Vienna , a microcosm of Cold War politics, which most accurately captures the tension, mistrust and fear so characteristic of post-war Europe . Fact and fiction beautifully amalgamated, with character relationships becoming symbolic of national political relationships.
- Café Mozart Only the name of the lovely Café Mozart on Albertina Platz was borrowed. It was shot on the Square called Neuer Markt.
- Mölkerbastei One sequence, two Locations: the Mölkerbastei, a remaining part of the old city fortification, and the church ‘Maria am Gestade’ on Passauerplatz, also in the first district.
- Platz Am Hof Though you will never find the kiosk on this square … It was only a film prop. The real one is on Lothringerstrasse.
- Café Marc Aurel Holly helps the police to catch the racketeer.
- The Sewers Although the sewer system offers 8.000 km, it was filmed in an underground river tunnel, known as the Vienna River Tunnel.
My photographs were shooting in Paris and London.