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The Third Man and Carol Reed


JackFavell
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I just watched *The Third Man* for maybe the 25th time, and I realized that no one has written about it since I started posting on TCM message boards, so I thought I would give it a go and start a thread.

 

The thing I like best about TTM (and what makes it unusual) is that the hero, Holly Martins is a fool. I love Joseph Cotten in this role, because he is blundering, dimwitted, and loudmouthed in a particularly American way. He is also decent, honest, and expects everyone else to be. He is set-up, knocked down (at least twice), arrested, accused of murder, and bitten by a parrot. My kind of guy.....

 

The other thing which makes TTM unusual is the incredible soundtrack- and I don't just mean the thrilling zither music. The use of sound in the film is astounding and lends to the uncomfortable atmosphere of Vienna in the aftermath of WWII. Somehow Reed makes this movie creepy AND totally enjoyable.

 

Carol Reed has made some of my favorite movies, with *The Third Man* at the top of the list. It was voted the #1 best European movie of all time in England, and frequently makes the lists of top international movies.

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I think Holly is supposed to represent us average guys, who go bungling through life. We might stand and wait for the good looking dame, but she just walks right by us as if we are not even there.

 

But because of his general "dumbness", people told him things... they told him too much, stuff they wouldn't have told a cop.

 

I'm sure you noticed the fantastic lighting in this film. They watered down the cobble-stone streets to make them shine and to reflect more light back up to the buildings. They used a lot of bright carbon arc lights, a long way away, to light up the buildings.

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Fred! Yes, I love both the lighting and the "Dutch" angles. That link you posted describing them was funny- the story of Reed receiving a spirit level from his crew made me laugh out loud. I think it's great that you learned those shots for your own camera work.

 

I love those German angle shots. I started a theory while watching it today- the angles throughout the film make you feel as though you are falling into a hole that just gets deeper and deeper, and you (Holly) are falling faster and faster (I'm not sure, but I think the angles get more pronounced as the movie goes on). Like falling down stairs when you can't stop yourself....Then suddenly, Holly falls out of the bottom of the hole- but it is the Ferris wheel scene- he is way up in the sky! then falling back down literally into the ground, into the sewers. Harry has turned into an animal, very appropriate since we first see him with another animal. At first I thought, Harry is a dog. But now I think he is a rat. That explains why the cat loves him! And then the fingers reaching, and the sound of air up above....I know, it is all a bit fanciful, but these are the impressions left with me while watching today.

 

The photography was more stark than I remembered- all black and white - like the tunnels with flashlights shining in the background- no grey really. Quite beautiful. I am positive now since you said that they watered down the cobbles, that Reed probably did the same thing in Odd Man Out, if my memory serves me....

 

And I noticed that, even after watching it many, many times, I never gave a thought to the fact that it might not have been shot in the actual city. The locations are so vivid and realistic. I don't actually know where it was shot. I had one impression in the train station scene that they might have used some of the sets and tricks from "Brief Encounter"....? I don't know.

 

Holly is definitely an "Everyman". Right from the first real exchange of the movie, you are confronted with his inadequacies-

 

Calloway: "That sounds like a cheap novelette."

Holly: "I write cheap novelettes."

 

I must confess I love this constant battering of Martins' writing abilities, the unthinking Paine says at one point something like: "That's what I like about your books- you can pick them up or put them down anytime." There is an almost gleeful pointing up of Holly's (the audience's) shortcomings.

 

This joy in the movie is exciting - like the heart quickening scene when you first see Harry- his shoe to be exact. then --wait--- his face! and what does he do? He doesn't look surprised or caught, instead, he smiles. It is the unexpectedness of every scene that is wonderful and even fun.

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>I started a theory while watching it today- the angles throughout the film make you feel as though you are falling into a hole that just gets deeper and deeper, and you (Holly) are falling faster and faster (I'm not sure, but I think the angles get more pronounced as the movie goes on). Like falling down stairs when you can't stop yourself....

 

I think you are right. They are a little disorienting, and so are the various mysteries of the movie which seem to increase in number as time goes by, and also the mysterious other people, such as the fine Austrian actors, and we don?t know if we can trust any of them or not.

 

Also, the photography of the brightly lit cobblestone streets tends to show the rows of stones as diagonals rather than as horizontal and vertical lines. Plus, there are all those strange silent local people, watching Holly from the shadows. And finally we get pulled down into the very sewers of the city.

 

I used to travel a lot to Latin America, and I used to have nightmares about running into similar situations in Mexico City, Managua, Tegucigalpa, etc. I worried about winding up fleeing from criminals and the police by running through the sewers underneath Mexico City! Yikes!

 

>Quite beautiful. I am positive now since you said that they watered down the cobbles, that Reed probably did the same thing in Odd Man Out, if my memory serves me....

 

Yes, the photography of Odd Man Out, and the mood and editing were similar.

 

I think they did shoot most of The Third Man in Vienna, but something in England...

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0041959/locations

 

Suppose some studio head had said, ?Ok, we?ve got no budget for location filming. And we?ll use our own orchestra instead of that silly zither music. Forget the sewer scenes, we?ll shoot those on a studio set. And let?s use some of our own contract players instead of all those unknown Austrians. Oh, and one last thing... please keep the camera level for all shots!?

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Suppose some studio head had said, ?Ok, we?ve got no budget for location filming. And we?ll use our own orchestra instead of that silly zither music. Forget the sewer scenes, we?ll shoot those on a studio set. And let?s use some of our own contract players instead of all those unknown Austrians. Oh, and one last thing... please keep the camera level for all shots!?

 

Oh, dear! I can see that happening nowadays! Can you imagine?

 

I have dreams like that too, only mine are about losing my daughter in a crowd of people...... horrible. The location changes, but the mood is always the same.Yuck.

 

The use of lovely character actors is superb in this movie- I especially like Paul Hoerbiger as the Porter, Hedwig Bleibtrau as Anna's landlady, and The Balloon Man, whoever he may be. He's not listed on IMDB. I like that people are always getting in the way- stopping police business, or just complaining loudly- even Holly. It's a messy movie, isn't it? Things don't go according to plan, ever. And of course, everyone remembers Herbert Halbik as Little Hansl, the creepiest kid in all of cinema.....How did they make him so creepy?! Aaaah, he gives me goosebumps!

 

I was thinking yesterday that I would not want to live in this movie- you know, some movies you just want to hop right into? But after looking at the youtube clips, it is amazing how pleasant the locations are in real life. I would be happy to live there! Makes me really appreciate the stunning photography by Robert Krasker. and the lighting....

 

I actually went to Vienna when I was just out of school. it was terrible - hot, humid and hard to get around. They were doing a ton of reconstruction then, and every thing was made ugly and difficult because of the scaffolding and loud hammering going on everywhere. But I do remember my father taking me one evening for a taxi ride- I didn't know where we were going, and we ended up going up in the Ferris Wheel! The cars are much larger than they look in the movie, but they do rock back and forth uneasily. It was fun, and I am so glad he took me there. We talked about the movie - the people looking like "dots" below, and of course, the cuckoo clock.....

 

Did you travel a lot in your work, Fred? I am curious now.

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>Did you travel a lot in your work, Fred? I am curious now.

 

I traveled a little in Central America and Mexico over the years. Back around ?88 I was down in some Mexican villages outside of the city of Saltillo, in the state of Coahuila, west of Monterrey. The scenery was desert and mountains, and it reminded me of the locations in ?The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. As a matter of fact, from the desert level, we could see some open hard-rock mines up in the mountains, and the locals told us that some of the men of the villages still worked them for a little gold they could get out of them.

 

I was making a documentary about a Catholic missionary group, and we went out into some of the remote desert villages to visit a few of the small local churches that were supported by Americans.

 

These were amazing scenes, right out of the 18th Century. We visited a family?s large old stone, adobe, and plaster house, way out in the remote desert, and the house was an old style hacienda, a large square ?compound? with a high wall around it and big wooden doors in the front of the wall, which were the only entrance. On the inside of the compound, all the rooms were attached to the outside wall, like the inside of a large square circle, and in the large central area of the compound was a big patio area and an old fashioned flower and cactus garden. The big doors could be closed and barred with a big wooden beam to protect the people inside from Indian attacks, which I suppose they had not had there for a hundred years or so. The furniture was almost all 18th and 19th Century antiques, which were original to the house.

 

During my traveling years, I liked to go to places like what I had seen in movies. Quite by chance, during my 1963 trip to Mexico City, I was a cameraman for a lady reporter and we stayed at the Reforma hotel in the downtown area, which was the same hotel the Robert Mitchum character stayed at in ?Out of the Past?.

 

In ?79 I was in Nicaragua just after the revolution ended. I stayed at the Intercontinental hotel in Managua, which was filled up with Sandinista revolutionary leaders, and Sandinista troops with machine guns. Every night we heard machine gun fire coming from in front of the hotel, as some members of Somoza's Guardia Nacional tried to continue to fight with the Sandinistas. At the Sandino International Airport in Managua, a fellow reporter and I got ?robbed? at gunpoint by one of the Cubans who Castro had sent to Nicaragua to help the Sandinistas. Actually, the reporter and I were having lunch in the airport caf?, and a group of Sandinistas and the Cuban, all with machine guns, were sitting a few tables away. The Cuban got up and walked over to us very slowly, with his machine gun slung around his shoulder. He was a big dark Hispanic looking guy with a Castro type beard, and he didn?t look very friendly. He pulled out his wallet and opened it up. The only thing in it was a photo of Castro and a small Nicaraguan coin worth about 1/2 ?. It was about half the size of a dime. He pointed at the coin with the barrel of his machine gun. He didn?t say a word. He just pointed at the coin and tapped it a few times with the front of his gun barrel.

 

I was a little slow to catch on, but after a few seconds I realized that the guy was broke and he wanted some money from us, since we were ?rich? Americans. The other reporter asked me what was going on and I said this fellow needed some money to buy lunch with, so we pulled out our wallets and gave him about $20 each. We smiled at him and grinned like fools, and wished him well, and we let him know that we were fully sympathetic with the Revolution, although I doubt if he understood any of our English. The Cuban took the money, but he never smiled and never said a word. He walked back over to his table and ordered some food. The reporter and I continued to eat our lunch as if nothing had happened. I used to love things like that when they happened. They made such good stories to tell my friends when I got back home. But I was always a big American dope just like Holly Martins. It?s a wonder I didn?t get killed during some of my trips to Latin America, but I always felt safer there than back in the US, where the murder rate was much higher.

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Most interesting, Fred! I don't know that I would have been so nonchalant with the machine gun guy......but you are right- you probably were safer out of this country.....we are pretty good at killing ourselves right here at home.

 

I love the sound of that courtyard hacienda. I really like the rugged look of the old tiles and stucco. I watched some workers making Saltillo tiles out of clay once. It is something I'd love to do.....I even thought about doing my kitchen in that Mexican style- Talavera and Saltillo, but in New England, it just doesn't really work. One day I would like to go down to Mexico and visit- but I don't want any Touch of Evil scenes happening when I go!

 

I found this link:

 

http://www.drittemanntour.at/en/index.html

 

Though I prefer to do the touring on my own, if I can.

 

Photobucket

 

*Balloon Man*

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Back in the '60s through the '90s, Mexico and Central America was a safe place for

American tourists.

 

The Sandinistas loved the American press because one of our own, Bill Stewart

of ABC News, had been murdered by Somoza's Guardia Nacional a few months

earlier, so I knew the Cuban and the Sandinistas with the machine guns weren't

going to hurt us in any way.

 

Here are some Sandinistas laughing at me. I was trying to get them to pose

while looking tough and mean, but I guess I made a fool out of myself, and they

started laughing at me.

 

http://i25.tinypic.com/2rqoo4o.jpg

 

On the other hand, there were many cities in the US where I was afraid to go by

myself back then (and now too) because of the high murder rate here.

 

In '79, a Sandinista with a machine gun was much more safe than a gang-banger

in a US ghetto. At the Managua airport and in a barrio, some of the Sandinistas let

Americans pose for pictures with them, and they even let us hold one of their guns.

It was a fad among us American press members to have a picture taken of us standing

with a group of them while we held a Sandinista rifle or machine gun.

 

Thanks for the link to the Vienna tour. I'd love to go on that tour.

 

Message was edited by: FredCDobbs

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Those Sandinistas look so nice! Aside from the fact that they are carrying rifles, you'd think they were an advertisement for tourism. and they look so very young......I wonder what happened to them.

 

I noticed while reading about the movie that Joseph Cotten was the _second_ choice for the role of Holly. James Stewart was the original choice. I could see him in the part, and in fact, I think Cotten does a bit more mumbling and stuttering than usual. It is one of the things I like about his performance. It is very hard for an actor to purposefully look foolish or uninteresting. Cotten does it with no reservations, and that is why I love him. His lines (especially around Anna) come out confusedly and he stumbles around for words. His dialogue with her kind of meanders down side streets and never really gets to the point. I am so glad Cotten got the role, because he really is splendidly dull and idealistic. I wonder if Stewart ever wished he had taken the part.....

 

I noticed in the scene in the office with Calloway that Cotten looks uncomfortably short- his chair is pulled up to the desk, but it doesn't really fit. His chest and head only are visible. He is squashed into this odd looking chair, with big books stacked in front of him and he's all rumpled. It makes him look like a kiddie at the adult table......

 

Photobucket

 

I like the effect of the two gunshots in the movie as well. They are both incredibly loud and resonant. Obviously, they are supposed to sound echoey because they are in the sewers, but they are so ominous sounding. You think that nothing could be as loud and shocking as the first one- the one that takes down Paine- but then the one fired by Holly (and only heard, not seen) is almost mournful in it's reverberations.

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Stewart might have done ok in it, but since Cotten was perfect, that?s fine with me.

 

You are absolutely right about Cotten?s relationship with Anna.

 

And I agree that in addition to the music, the rest of the sound track was outstanding too.

 

I particularly liked the scene where Lime, in the sewers at the end, was listening to all the talking of the police who were searching for him, but he couldn?t tell which branch of the sewer pipes the talk was coming from, so he didn?t know which way he could run.

 

Regarding the young Sandinistas in my photo, many of them were educated and were from middle-class families. They had joined the Revolutionaries only toward the end, after Somoza (the dictator) had issued orders for his national guard to shoot on sight anyone on the streets in certain parts of town who looked like they were over the age of 12. Seems that many young poor teens had joined the Revolution, but the national guard shot and killed many middle-class teens who did not know about the latest orders. So, during the last several months many middle-class teens joined the Sandinistas to help topple Somoza and the fascist Guardia Nacionale.

 

Both of the Hollywood movies, ?Salvador? (1986) and ?Under Fire? (1983), tell good stories about what it was like in Nicaragua and El Salvador back in those days.

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I thought Cotten was fine also.

 

It's interesting to compare the character of Holly with that of "The American" in Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American. Although that book's somewhat "un"-American atmosphere was toned down for the 1958 version with Audie Murphy, I think both characters' relative naivete speaks volumes about the perception of Americans outside our borders at the time both works originated.

 

I have to wonder, though, concerning Alida Valli's character, Anna, who seems quite upset by Holly's perceived betrayal of Lime to the police, but remains untroubled by Lime's betrayal of many by his participation in the medical black market. There's a logical inconsistency there somewhere.

 

I enjoy your "backstory" comments as well, Fred.

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>I have to wonder, though, concerning Alida Valli's character, Anna, who seems quite

>upset by Holly's perceived betrayal of Lime to the police, but remains untroubled

>by Lime's betrayal of many by his participation in the medical black market.

 

My opinion is.... that?s actually quite common with some types of women who are ?in love?.

They completely overlook the faults of their lovers, much like the way Caril Ann

Fugate overlooked the fact that her boyfriend, Charlie Starkweather, was going

around killing people.

 

If you are a young whippersnapper, see this:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caril_Ann_Fugate

 

And of course there were the Charlie Manson girls, who had mostly come from

calm middle-class backgrounds, with no previous history of violence of any kind

until they met up with Charlie. I think if Lime had wanted Anna to help him with his

scheme in some way, she would have done it and she would have tried to overlook

his little faults.

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Welcome, Cinesage and Nightwalker.

 

I have always wondered about Anna- why she could overlook Lime's crimes. I think she simply can't help herself- like Holly can't help falling in love with Anna. Once in love with Harry, she simply can't stop it.

 

Also, I'm not sure she was "untroubled" by his crime. I noticed a warming toward Holly after she learns about Harry's involvement. But by betraying Harry, Holly does himself in with Anna. She never looks back and willfully chooses Harry- and very purposefully ignores his "faults". I think if Holly had stuck around, but not gotten involved with picking up Harry, he might have had a chance with Anna. Even Harry thought so, in his cruel way. He says as much to Holly.

 

Fred, I like the scene you mention very much. The blank and ominous doorways, all alike in their blackness, but each foreboding doom, are a metaphor for Harry's being dragged into the same pit or hole he himself created, only now they are multiplied. The combination of editing, lighting, and sound are combined perfectly in that scene. If I were trying to direct that scene, I doubt I could have come up with such a succinct and powerful expression of doubt and confusion. and the sound - it is a masterpiece of sound. How to know which is the echo, which is the empty doorway? Oh, this movie is amazing for it's aural beauty. Here's a new thought (to me , anyway) - do the background sounds represent the truth in this movie? I noticed that the zither gives away some plot points in certain places- even at the beginning, the zither tells us something is wrong. And the zither leads us to our first siting of Harry as well, as the camera flies out the window and over the flower box, the zither picks up speed into a crazily happy tune, almost speaking the cat's joy at seeing Harry......are there other background noises that bring our attention to specific points? I think there might be, but I get so lost in the movie I don't always notice these things.

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I agree with you about the way the music was used. It tends to warn about or anticipate

the events and emotions that are coming up in the film.

 

There is the average ?everything is ok in Vienna? music, such as the title theme.

 

Then there?s the ?uh oh? music, meaning ?uh oh, something?s about to happen?.

 

And the very sad music that means ?it?s ok to cry?.

 

And the chase music, which at times suggests a ?spiraling downward? effect, such

as when Holly and Anna are running away from the porter?s house and when Holly

is running down the piles of rubble to escape the pursuing hoodlums.

 

I think this film has the best use of music of any film ever made anywhere in the world.

 

Did you know that the title music, known as ?The Third Man Theme?, was so popular

in the US in 1950 it was on juke boxes in cafes and bars all across the country? I

remember hearing it on the juke boxes back in those days, even in small cafes and

cowboy bars where I lived up in Montana back then.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Man_Theme

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I knew it became popular. One of my favorite places to take my daughter has the old table top jukeboxes. The Third Man Theme is on it!

 

I like music that can be interpreted in different ways- incorporating happy and sad themes. Ethnic music, such as Klezmer or the Tango, can be danced to, but always has a streak of sadness and history behind it. Anton Karas' zither music has that same feel. I'm so glad you separated out the themes for me! I hadn't quite listened carefully enough to pick them out, but I would certainly recognize them. As soon as you said the "chase music" spiraling downward, I knew which theme it was- that falling succession of notes on a staccato downward scale.

 

Somehow, you've got me thinking that Carol Reed was one of the few directors to use space in a vertical way. I mean, most good directors see their set as a series of planes - back to front, front to back, or in terms of depth. Reed uses those, but also films from underneath and above as well. The scenes with Holly or Harry scrabbling down those broken steps or ruins, for example. Or when Harry is climbing the steps up at the end. The camera is constantly moving up and over things. The movie just has all these layers of .... oh, I don't know. Maybe mise en scene? Is that the right word? I am so happy to be on the boards with people who make me think about this stuff!

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>Somehow, you've got me thinking that Carol Reed was one of the few directors to use space in a vertical way. I mean, most good directors see their set as a series of planes - back to front, front to back, or in terms of depth.

 

That?s a very interesting observation.

 

All through the movie, people are going up and down, as well as side to side and front to back, such as the scenes you mentioned, also Holly running up the spiral stairs to the room the parrot is in. Lime going up the spiral stairs at the end in the sewer. The Ferris wheel going up and then down. Holly and Lime going down into the sewer, down the debris of the buildings, Lime seeing the caf? at the end from above and going down to it, then going down deeper as the scrambles down the rubble behind the caf?, then still deeper as he descends into the sewer, and at the very end, he tries to climb out, but he can never climb out of the sewer again.

 

I think that sometimes a director doesn?t actually consciously think of these things, he just sees the setting and he films the scenes that way because they ?look right?. I?ve had people try to analyze some of my documentaries, and they spot things in them that I never consciously thought of when I was filming and editing them. I used a lot of music in some of my documentaries. I used the Third Man Theme in one of them, just a few seconds of it, enough so that it might register with old-timers, even though they might not be able to remember where they first heard the music.

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> {quote:title=JackFavell wrote:}{quote}

> Welcome, Cinesage and Nightwalker.

>

> I have always wondered about Anna- why she could overlook Lime's crimes. I think she simply can't help herself- like Holly can't help falling in love with Anna. Once in love with Harry, she simply can't stop it.

>

> Also, I'm not sure she was "untroubled" by his crime. I noticed a warming toward Holly after she learns about Harry's involvement. But by betraying Harry, Holly does himself in with Anna. She never looks back and willfully chooses Harry- and very purposefully ignores his "faults". I think if Holly had stuck around, but not gotten involved with picking up Harry, he might have had a chance with Anna. Even Harry thought so, in his cruel way. He says as much to Holly.

>

All of which brings us to the whole "bad boy/good girl" phenomenon, which perhaps reached its zenith (or nadir) in the public awareness in the 90s with the soccer moms and Bill Clinton.

 

Perhaps mixed in there, along with the "thrill" of the challenge of reforming these bad boys, or perhaps becoming "the one" for whom they would change their ways, is the arousal of the maternal instinct as well.

 

Not being female, I don't pretend to have the answer to this. I merely point out its existence.

 

I do agree that Holly probably did have a chance with Anna until his "betrayal" of Lime.

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> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote}

>

> If you are a young whippersnapper, see this:

>

> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caril_Ann_Fugate

>

> And of course there were the Charlie Manson girls, who had mostly come from calm middle-class backgrounds, with no previous history of violence of any kind until they met up with Charlie. I think if Lime had wanted Anna to help him with his scheme in some way, she would have done it and she would have tried to overlook his little faults.

 

Yes, I agree that this is a distinct possibility (and see also my previous post for another possibility).

 

And thanks for thinking I might be a whippersnapper! Actually, my whippersnapping days are long gone, but I appreciate the thought. I recall the Fugate "incident" and the Manson family girls quite well.

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> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote}

 

> All through the movie, people are going up and down, as well as side to side and front to back, such as the scenes you mentioned, also Holly running up the spiral stairs to the room the parrot is in. Lime going up the spiral stairs at the end in the sewer. The Ferris wheel going up and then down. Holly and Lime going down into the sewer, down the debris of the buildings, Lime seeing the caf? at the end from above and going down to it, then going down deeper as the scrambles down the rubble behind the caf?, then still deeper as he descends into the sewer, and at the very end, he tries to climb out, but he can never climb out of the sewer again.

>

I think there might also be a metaphysical aspect to all this ascending and descending as well.

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> {quote:title=CineSage_jr wrote:}{quote}

> Well, Holly uncovers Harry's ethical and spiritual descent into selling worthless penicillin to those who desperately need it so, yes, death in the Vienna sewers is a deliberate and apt metaphor.

 

Agreed. I also think, for one instance, that a more concrete metaphysical correspondence might exist (if such a thing is possible!) between the "fall" of the rather devilish Lime from the heavens (the ferris wheel) to the depths of hell (the sewers) and the story of Lucifer in the Bible.

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