FILM / Director's Cuts: A twist of pure Lime: Steven Soderbergh on the Ferris wheel scene in Carol Reed's The Third Man: 'a masterpiece of subtext'

The Third Man is a great film and, as much as I love the sewer sequence at the end, the scene where Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles meet on a Ferris wheel is simply astonishing, not necessarily for the way it was shot, but for the ideas involved and the relationship between the two characters.

It succeeds on so many levels that it's hard to know where to start. It's a fascinating meeting between two men who have much in common and also much to keep them apart. Basically the sequence is about whether Orson Welles is going to kill his best friend to save himself. It's full of veiled threats; the dialogue is a masterpiece of subtext. But Harry Lime also lays out his world to you and his reasons for what he does, with their own sort of sickening persuasion.

There's enormous expectation about the Harry Lime character, but when that sequence is over you completely understand why he's such an influential presence in the film and in people's lives. Which is hard to do - you've built him up for the entire film and then you present him and, my God, he'd better be great.

Visually, the Ferris wheel is a striking piece of imagery that works both on the surface and as a metaphor. But above all this is just such an amazing sequence as a piece of writing and acting. Scenes themselves should be as well-structured as the film itself, and this is a brilliant five minutes that has a structure all its own. It works on every level, it does what movies can do and should do better than a lot of other media. Something to shoot for]

'The Third Man' is revived today (see review, p25). Steven Soderbergh directed 'sex lies and videotape'; his film 'Kafka' continues at the MGM Shaftesbury Ave

(Photographs omitted)

Comments