BU Film School

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

FT 540 Reading: The Third Man

Screenplay info
Written by: Grahame Greene (story by Greene and Alexander Korda)
Film info: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0041959
Filmsite.org link: http://www.filmsite.org/thir.html

Synopsis
Intro shows postwar Vienna divided into zones, discusses black market. Also introduces Martins as man going to Vienna to see Harry Lime, a longtime friend, about promised job.

Martins leaves, takes series of planes to Vienna. A montage illustrates his journey -- his transformation from cheerful traveler to weary, stubbled traveler sick of planes and officials. (Sets tone for rest of his movie, his disillusionment.)

Martins arrives at airport, is surprised to find that Lime isn't there. He goes to Lime's address, and is told by the porter that Lime was killed in a car accident. He goes to the cemetery, where he asks a bystander (Calloway) if it was Lime's funeral. After the coffin's lowered, Martins walks away. Calloway offers him a ride. On the way, they pass a girl who was also at the funeral.

Calloway offers to buy Martins a drink. Martins gets tipsy, talking about how Lime was his best friend, and how their schemes always ended up with Martins getting caught. "That was convenient for Lime." Calloway is trying to provoke Martins, who eventually notices. Martins reveals that he writes cheap novelettes - Westerns (Lone Rider of Santa Fe). Calloway says that Lime is a racketeer, implies worse schemes than dealing in tires. Martins, infuriated, tries to hit Calloway but is stopped by Sergeant Paine. Paine turns out to be a fan of Martins. Martins vows to get to the bottom of things and prove Calloway wrong. Calloway gives him money to stay at a hotel, says will put Martins on tomorrow's plane. Martins tries to hit him again, but Paine decks him.

Paine takes Martins to Sacher's Hotel and gets him a room. Crabbit overhears that Martins is a writer, and offers to set up a lecture and lodgings. A Baron von Kurtz, a friend of Lime's, calls for Martins. They set up a meeting for the Mozart Cafe (since Kurtz is not allowed in the English sector). Martins accepts the lecture, will stay for a week.

Martins meets Kurtz. They reenact accident -- Kurtz and Lime had been walking, Popescu had called from other side, Lime had stepped into street and gotten hit. Kurtz and Popescu had carried Lime to statue, where Lime spoke warmly of Martins. Martins points out that porter said death was instant. He asks to speak to Popescu, but Kurtz says he's left Vienna. Martins tries to talk to the porter, who is hustled inside by his wife. Martins asks about the doctor who performed the inquest, and about the girl he saw at the funeral.

Martins goes to the Josefstadt theater, where he can't understand the German play. He goes backstage to talk to Anna. She says Harry's own driver knocked him down, wonders if it was really an accident.

At Harry's flat, the porter again describes the accident. Martins asks if Lime could have been conscious. Porter says no. He says that three men carried the body to the curb. Phone rings in bedroom. Anna picks it up, but no one answers. Martins says the porter must tell his story to the police. Hansl, a child in pursuit of a ball, overhears. Porter tells Martins to leave.

Martins walks Anna to her apartment, where they find Calloway, Paine and two Austrian policemen going through her things. Anna hands over her papers. Calloway examines them, finds they're rather convincing. Paine takes her letters. Martins rails at Calloway about Lime. "I'm going to get to the bottom of this." "Leave death to the professionals. Anna explains to Martins that her papers are false -- she's from Czechoslovakia. Martins asks her for the name of the doctor.

Martins visits Winkel, the doctor, who insists there were only two friends. He can give no opinion as to whether Lime's death was accidental.

At the police station, Brodsky, a Russian, brings Anna's passport back to Calloway, and says that the Russians have a claim to the body (Anna). Calloway questions Anna about Joseph Harbin, a medical orderly who'd been working with the police. Lime had sent her a letter asking her to call Harbin with a message; the day she did so, Harbin disappeared.

Crabbit spots Martins at the Casanova Club and says the lecture's been arranged. Martins spots Kurtz playing the violin. Kurtz says Popescu is back in town. Popescu, brought by Kurtz, rehashes the accident, and denies that there was a third man. Martins also asks about Harry's alleged racket and Joseph Harbin, but Popescu stonewalls him. Popescu, Kurtz, and Winkel head toward a rendez-vous.

Martins is on Harry's street, reenacting the accident. The porter calls down to him, saying for Martins to come that night when his wife's out. The porter shuts the window, hears the squeak of shoes from the next room, turns and looks in horror.

Anna, learning a new part, is visited by Martins. Anna asks him to tell her about Harry. Martins tells her that she'll fall in love again, but she says she doesn't want to. He asks her to go out and have a drink (just as Harry used to), she calls him Harry.

Martins and Anna go to Harry's, find that the porter is dead. Hansl, the child from earlier, tells his papa that he saw blood. He also says that Martins is the foreigner who visited the Porter. Papa and Hansl follow Martins and Anna, who duck into a theater. They split up -- she goes to the theater, Martins to Sacher's.

At Sacher's, Martins tries to call Calloway, but doesn't know the number. He is told he can use a car that's waiting outside. Instead of taking him to police HQ, though, the car drives Martins to the cultural center for his lecture. Martins is at sea, and the q&a is a disaster. Popescu comes in and asks if Martins is working on a new book. Martins says yes -- The Third Man, founded on fact, a murder story. Popescu warns him about mixing fact and fiction. "Haven't you ever scrapped a book, Mr. Martens?" "Never." The readers leave. Popescu and two other men wait for Martins. He runs, they pursue. He dodges into a room, is unnerved by a curious whisper/noise (nice suspense). The source is a parrot, who bites him. Martins makes his way to police HQ.

Calloway tells Martins about the diluted penicillin, and the resulting deaths. He shows photos, notes, and other evidence that convinces Martins of Lime's guilt. Martins asks for a plane ticket. He leaves. Brodsky returns, asks for Anna's passport.

Martins drinks, buys chrysanthemums, and ends up at Anna's. He tries to make friends with the cat, who walks away. Anna reveals that Calloway also told her about Harry. The cat, outside, goes across the street and curls around the legs of a man standing in the shadows.

Martins and Anna are still talking. He's very disillusioned, but Anna upbraids him. Martins says he's leaving Vienna. He is in love with Anna, but she's not with him. "You still love Harry, don't you?"

Martins, leaving Anna's apartment, notices the man in the shadows. It's Harry! Martins pursues, but Lime disappears. Calloway doesn't believe Martins at first, but notices a nearby manhole and deduces that Lime escaped into the sewers. Lime's supposed grave is excavated. It's not Lime in the coffin, but Harbin.

Policemen arrest Anna and take her to the station. Martins sees her there, and says that Lime's allive. Calloway and Anna speak in private. He offers her help in exchange for hers.

Martins goes to Kurtz's house. He waits by the Ferris wheel for one hour. Lime meets him there, and they go on the ride. Lime displays no remorse for the deaths. He compares the people on the ground to dots, and asks if, offered 20,000 pounds for each dot, Martins wouldn't have done the same. He offers Martins a partnership. Lime: "It's you I want to see, not the police." Calloway asks for Martins' help. Martins is reluctant ("Don't ask me to tie the rope"), but eventually names his price.

Anna, to her surprise, is given papers and a train ticket. She spots Martins at the station and confronts him. He admits that he's informing on Lime. She rebukes him for selling Lime out ("I'm not willing to be the price"), tears up the ticket and her papers, and leaves. Martin tells Calloway he wants to leave. Calloway drives him to airport, but on the way stops at a children's hospital, to show him Lime's handiwork. Martins gives in.

Martins and Lime set up a meet in the cafe, which is watched by the police. Anna slips in, and sits with Martins. She upbraids Martins for being an informer, which Lime (who entered by the back way) overhears. She alerts him to cops. Lime draws his gun, but runs when Paine makes his way to the front door.

Lime runs and goes down into a manhole, pursued by the others. They make their way through the sewers. Martins, calling for Lime, is answered. Martins tells him to come out, then to raise his hands. Lime does so, then grabs his gun and shoots, killing Paine. Martins dithers, his presence preventing the police and Lime from shooting at each other. Martins says, "This way". Lime runs past Martins, but is hit by police fire. Calloway tells Martins, "You didn't do him any good."

Lime, injured, reaches a manhole, but doesn't have the strength to lift the grating. Martins arrives, Calloway and others are farther back but pursuing. They hear a shot, and see Martins coming back, his head down.

There is another funeral for Lime (a real one this time). Calloway is giving Martins a lift to the airport. On the way, they again pass Anna. Martins has Calloway stop the car. Martins gets out and waits, but Anna walks right by him.

My notes
-- revised screenplay a lot tighter than original. Less verbiage -- more left for readers/viewers to figure out. also some scenes arranged/deleted, two minor characters combined into one.
-- flawed characters. Lime an amoral racketeer, Martins foolish meddler.
-- driving force: Martins trying to get to botton of mystery.
-- Martins' stories are Westerns -- good guys vs. bad guys. Pictures himself as hero battling police to exonerate friend.
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FT 540 notes (from 06/03/03)
-- Vienna, everything gray, values ambivalent, landscape shifting. Shadow governments. Code of honor no longer exists.
-- Post WWII. America leader, Britain pretending to be important. Gray areas. Lines drawn for battle.
-- Ambivalence, ambiguity -- no easy endings. Values are constantly being redefined.

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