Monthly Archives: June 2012

Graham Greene, The Third Man

This is the script for the great movie where film noir came home to central Europe. But don’t think that you will know what it contains, because you’ve seen the film; it’s far from being simply the soundtrack to it. Being a novelist, Greene frequently goes beyond dialogue and gives expansive descriptions of settings and people, which include characterisation, and insights into characters’ thoughts and feelings, as well as purely visual details.

If you haven’t seen the film, go and see it, and don’t read on as there is some plot spoiling ahead.

The script also documents many differences from the eventual dialogue in the film, most famously the insertion in the film of Harry’s famous contrast of the achievements of Italy and Switzerland. (N.B. these aren’t completely accurately reported. For example, although the detail of the French military policeman’s handing Anna her lipstick with a few words as she is taken away under arrest is said to be cut, it does in fact appear in the film.) Some changes serve to tone down; so the description of the state of the child victims in the film is less brutal and less is made of the fight early on. There are changes to the characters which emphasise the Central European location: Anna becomes Czech, not Estonian, and the Romanian Popescu replaces an American, Tyler. Kurtz in the original script was a fake baron, the son of a butcher. And sometimes we can see Greene’s own particular preoccupations more clearly in the script. For example, more attention is paid to Dr Winkel’s collection of Catholic relics then there is in the film.

You can’t of course capture the atmosphere of the film from reading the script (or why bother making a film out of it?) But for those who know the film, the script documents how it came into existence and provides an interpretation.

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