Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Picture Essay: THE THIRD MAN in Vienna
I just arrived back in Seoul from a two week summer holiday in Europe, which included a stop in Vienna, Austria. I was excited to see Vienna partly (OK, mostly) because one of my favorite movies, Carol Reed's 1949 film noir THE THIRD MAN, was set and partially shot in the post-war city (as was another movie I quite like, BEFORE SUNRISE). THE THIRD MAN is one of the films I have seen most often, many times on a very bad public domain VHS copy. I was pleased to find that the city very much caters to cinephiles similarly obsessed with the film. A local cinema, the Burg Kino, has screenings of the film in 35mm three times a week, and I was able to catch a late Friday screening. Seeing the city itself certainly makes a viewing of the film a fresh and new experience, even if it's the 50th plus time. But the constant screenings are only part of the story. There is also a walking tour, a tour of the kanal sewer, and, best of all, the Third Man Museum, a private collection by Gerhard Strassgschschwandter made available to the public on Saturday afternoons, 2pm-6pm, as well as by appointment on Tuesday evenings. It claims to be the only museum in the world devoted to a single film, and the amount of material assembled is very impressive. The following is a picture essay detailing some of the sights of Vienna today compared with shots from the original film, along with a tour of the museum itself.
The famous doorway where we first meet Harry Lime. Doesn't really look the same in person, yet comparing the photographs it is remarkably similar all these years later.
The Riesenrad, the Ferris wheel which still exists in the Prater amusement park and where Harry Lime compares people to dots.
The first room of the collection features bios of the cast and crew, including many of the supporting actors taken from the Viennese stage and screen, as well as many posters and photos detailing the film and its history.
Next is a room dedicated to composer Anton Karas, including over 400 covers of the "Third Man theme" which are available for listening, as well as the original zither used by Karas to compose the score.
One of the more unusual exhibits is an original sewer from the period, which reveals that they were in fact too thick for one's fingers to fit through. Reed had to build a prop to create the surreal shot of the fingers coming out of the ground (those are Reed's own fingers).
There is a small reading room of THIRD MAN literature, in both English and German.
A brief two minute clip of the film is shown on an original projector from the post-war period.
A collection of VHS and DVD boxes, including the "Hollywood Classics" edition I wore out many years earlier.
Yes, there were THIRD MAN boardgames.
A nice discovery: a Croatian remake of THE THIRD MAN titled TRECA ZENA (THE THIRD WOMAN) from 1997, in which the gender of the characters is reversed and the setting changed to post-war Croatia of the early 90s. Sounds fascinating but haven't located a copy yet.
The final room features an exhibition on THE THIRD MAN in Japan, with many posters and collectibles on the film's impact in that country. Particularly of interest is the large number of Japanese advertising using the film's final shot, which is generally avoided in the North American and European promotions. An academic essay explaining this phenomenon awaits at some point.
More detailed information on the museum can be found at their website. A must-see if you are a fan and in Vienna for a visit.