Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vienna: The Third Man

One of the themes of my travels has been visiting locations of some of my favourite films. First there was Hanging Rock north of Melbourne, featured in - of course - Picnic at Hanging Rock. Then there was the particular spot of Angkor Wat in Cambodia from In The Mood For Love. Now in Vienna I’ve visited a couple of locations from The Third Man. I saw Harry Lime’s apartment, as posted on this blog yesterday. Today I visited Zentralfreidhof, the central cemetery of Vienna and looked for the spot where the unforgettable final shot of The Third Man was filmed. That final shot can be seen here (although it doesn’t make much sense if you haven’t seen the rest of the film):

The cemetery is enormous - I read somewhere that over two million people are buried there. I was expecting it to be quiet but by chance I happened to visit on the day that Austrians honour the dead by visiting gravesites, so there were quite a lot of people there. I thought I’d be able to find the right spot because of some references in the film - in particular a distinctive statue of an angel with a bowed head - and some research I’d done beforehand. The searching of gravestones looking for the exact one brought to mind another classic movie scene: the one in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly when the character Tuco is running around a massive US civil war cemetery looking for the name that has gold buried in it. (That location - in Spain I think - should also be on my list!) I wasn’t running but after a while my head was spinning with gravestones like in that sequence. Like Tuco, I went in random directions rather than searching more systematically:

After nearly and hour and a half of wandering around I was nearly about to give up but suddenly I found the distinctive gravestone, which can be glimpsed in the film:

It’s impossible to know for sure just which pathway the shot in The Third Man is filmed because there’s nothing very distinctive in it, but I’m pretty sure I found the right one. It’s changed quite a bit since 1948. The trees have been replaced with smaller ones and some buildings have been constructed on the right. My timing was pretty good: the shadows from the trees are similar to those in the film and the falling leaves in both the film and my photo show that they were both done in autumn.

I thought about trying to recreate the final shot but I didn’t have actors to play Holly and Anna. I considered asking some strangers to play the parts but thought better of it. I did, however, make a small movie that lasts the same length of time as the final shot of the movie. So just imagine Alida Valli and Joseph Cotton are there, some zither music on the soundtrack, and that it is in black and white and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s almost identical:

[dammit, it won't upload. will try again later]

Later that afternoon I saw the film itself in a cinema. The cinema shows it two or three times a week and has done for years. There's quite Third Man industry in Vienna. As well as regular screenings of the film, there is a museum devoted to the it (which I didn't get to see because it is only open on Saturdays) and a few walking tours of some of the locations (which I didn't do because I preferred to hunt them out myself).

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