The Third Man Film Genre Analysis

Subject: Art
Pages: 2
Words: 805
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: Master

The Third Man is a 1949 film directed by British director Carol Reed. The film was well-received by critics and became one of the classics of the film-noir genre. According to the British Film Institute survey of the best British film of the twentieth century, The Third Man was voted as a winner. The Third Man is considered one of the best examples of the film-noir style. Its narrative translates ideas of friendship, partnership, loyalty, crime, and justice in an immersive and entertaining way. The film is also awarded for its cinematography. For example, the film also uses a Dutch angle technique to emphasize the disorientation and confusion that the characters are experiencing. Hence, it is important to note how did the film match the spirit of the time, how did it follow, expand, or even defined the common themes of a film-noir genre, and how do characters act as personifications for a social problem that presented at the time.

One of the defining characteristics of film noir is the way the protagonist is confronted with some situation or series of events, which makes him a part of a much bigger scheme. It is crucial that the protagonists do not intend to be involved in the first place. In film noir, the consequences of unintentionally becoming a part of something are usually unfortunate, conflicting, or even tragic for the main character. In The Third Man, the protagonist Holly Martins, a pulp-fiction writer from the United States, was invited by his childhood friend Harry Lime. Martins finds out that his friend was hit by a car and died and visits his funeral, where he is carefully observed as two officers of British Police tell Martins that Lime was a black-market racketeer. Martin does not believe them and wants to investigate Lime’s death separately from the police. As he begins his investigation, he begins to spiral deeper into the tricky world of post-war Vienna, a city that is corrupted. He falls in love with a widow, which also manipulates him as a female character in film-noir does (Spicer 46). By the end of the story, the only person who stayed honest and respectful towards Holly Martins was a British Police officer who warned him from the very beginning. Due to his help, the main protagonist has not suffered as much as he could and leaves the city emotionally devastated.

The events of the film take place in the post-war environment of Vienna, which, similarly to Berlin, was then divided into two parts by the Allies of the USSR, the United States, France, and Great Britain. The city is devastated by the black market economy and crime. The post-war city of Vienna plays a big role in representing the spirit of the time and circumstances in the movie. There are many architectural details shown in both exterior and interior scenes. In film noir, the city always plays a big role, as the main protagonist is often in some form of inner or external conflict with it. The Third Man is not an exception. Mise-en-scenes, which take place on the streets of Vienna, stroke viewers with the spacious and beautiful architecture, which is at the same time ruined by the wat and is most of the time entirely empty.

This leads to another aspect of the film, which represents a social problem depicted in the movie. Nearly every character has its own unique problem, which may be caused by personal feelings, external factors, or even job duties. One of the characters, which for me remains the most tragic in the movie, is the main female character – Anna Schmidt. She is the widow of the main antagonist – Harry Lime, and viewers meet her for the first time in the scene of her husband’s funeral. As the city is divided by Russians and the British, the life of a citizen of Vienna is more complex as there are two sources of power. Moreover, the crime and post-war chaos in the city contribute to the tension and uncertainty in the lives of regular people. For Anna Schmidt, troubles only begin there. She loses her husband, who was a criminal, and her passport is forged. As the investigation begins, both the Russians and the British start to search for Anna Schmidt.

Anna Schmidt’s character represents the vulnerability of a regular citizen who has two face the change in the government and has to hide in order to avoid punishment from foreign law enforcers. In the circumstances like this, it is nearly impossible to understand what is the right decision. The confusion for Anna Schmidt becomes even more intense as Holly Martins, the main protagonist, falls in love with her. Hence, the film clearly represents some of the hardships which were experienced by people in the cities devastated after World War II.

Works Cited

Coppola, Francis Ford. The Conversation. Paramount Pictures, 1974.

Spicer, Andrew. Film noir. Routledge, 2018.