Collaborative Research: The Third Man as a Novel and as a Film Script; The Third Man and Film Noir
Read the photocopy of the last two (short!) chapters of Graham Greene's novel, which he created to capitalize on the popularity of the film, and compare those portions of the novel with the same scenes from the film script. Then read portions of Michael Walker's introduction to film noir (from Cameron, ed., The Book of Film Noir) pages 8-12) and look for similarities between the movie and this important French-American type of detective film. Form pairs or trios and divide up the reading, meet to discuss the reading, and post to the public folder some answers to the questions below. Come to class as a group, prepared to lead a discussion of film noir as a genre, the types of film noir hero Walker describes, the important differences between the film and the first screenplay (and the "novelization), and the contrasting values of Casablanca and The Third Man. If it helps, you can divide the reading responsibilities, but make sure you all know what Greene's novel and Walker have to tell writers looking for theses about this movie. Walker genre type-hero examples.
Your group should try to answer the following questions after reading pages 133-48 of Greene's novelization of The Third Man:
1) What is Graham Greene's novel's version of the concluding events of this plot and in what important ways did it differ from the script's version? What does that tell you about the novelist's value system or style?
2) What did Carol Reed do to Greene's basic ideas for concluding the plot while shooting the script (look for dialogue or comments in [square brackets]) that further influenced the outcome of the movie? What does that tell you about the film director's value system or style?
3) What does this film seem to be saying to audiences about love and loyalty after World War II, and how might that contrast with the "sermon" delivered by Casablanca (Koch, "Casablanca as Church").
Your group should try to answer the following questions based on their reading of Walker's "Film Noir: Introduction," pages 8-16 (and 25-32 are highly recommended [on reserve or see the "long" photocopy] if you are interested in this approach):
4) What major types of film noir movies does Walker identify, and what visual styles and plot structures does Walker say are typically found in those types of film noir?
5) What psychological, sociological, and political forces motivate directors' use of these styles and structures in film noir?
6) Can we see film noir characteristics in The Third Man? Can we see them in Casablanca? What do these effects contribute to the movies? Do the movies treat these characteristics as typical films noir do, or do they change them?
Greene's novelization presents an interpretive problem is similar to what we discovered when comparing Hawthorne's notebooks and the short stories we read. The author's pre-writing, just like yours, goes through evolutions that reveal his developing intentions. For instance, Greene is very concerned with Roman Catholics' struggles with their faith in a world increasingly dominated by secular science, political dictatorship, and cynical capitalism, all of which ignore spiritual matters and invite us to think of ourselves only as material beings without souls. The film's emphasis on Holly's poverty and Harry's tempting him with great wealth in the "Great Wheel" scene make it obvious that something moral is happening, but the full effect of Reed's representation of Greene's "soul-struggle" in visual images and dialogue is found in many places in the film. The conclusion of Greene's novelization may tell you something about what Greene believes to be "the right choice" in this film about difficult choices between material vs. spiritual choices.
If you are curious about this issue, keep digging, read further in Greene's novelization and compare it with what actually happens in the movie. For instance, in the "Prater Wheel" scene, the movie diminishes Greene's emphasis on this as a Catholic problem, but retains it as a more generalized religious problem, by changing Holly's statement "You used to be a Catholic" to "You used to believe in God." In the concluding scenes of the movie, however, you still can see the remains of Greene's spiritual dilemma when Holly's reluctance to sacrifice his friend is overcome by a sense of remorse for all the harm Harry has done. Does Holly act justly when he shoots Harry? What is different about that moment in the film as opposed to its description in the novel? Viewers of the film who don't know Greene's script or novel would have no way of knowing about that subtle but important influence on Holly's attitude toward Harry, but the scholar who digs into the relationships between film and writer can find that out, and many more things the first-time viewer will be only dimly aware of in the "dream of the film." Voila--news!
The Walker essay's problem is more like our struggle to find critical sources that discussed Hawthorne, or issues relevant to those three stories. Walker's essay actually is an excellent one for a student to use since the connections between film noir and these two movies are by no means completely obvious (i.e., it's "news" from the very start). What we borrow from the source is an interpretive method. It's not unlike a scientist taking Louis Pasteur's discovery of the inoculation strategy for inducing human immunity to smallpox and applying it to typhus or malaria, or the art historian who uses the musical term "baroque" to describe works of literature produced at the same time as baroque music and exhibiting the same sort of grandly distorted, voluptuously materialistic beauty as Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #3. In this case, Walker leads us right to the connection in the first two paragraphs.
Paragraph one contains interpretive keywords that make obvious connections to The Third Man and more subtle ones to Casablanca ("the 'hard-boiled' tradition," "paranoia," "'crisis in masculinity'"). As Walker explains some of the other key terms in that list, you'll see further parallels between films noir and the two movies we saw. Paragraph two dates the traditional boundaries of classic film noir to the period from The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941) to Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958), peaking between 1946 and 1950" (8). Now you know why I've been mentioning Bogart's role in The Maltese Falcon in class, and Welles' directorial tour de force in Touch of Evil strongly suggests that his artistic temperament might lead him to introduce film noir elements in his role as Harry Lime. Even better, The Third Man is produced in 1949, just at the end of the period Walker identifies as the peak of film noir's influence. As you read Walker's convenient summary of other critics' attempt to explain the film noir phenomenon, you'll see many points at which the two movies we saw conform interestingly to this genre of film, but (best of all!) Walker never mentions either of them. Voila--news!