The Third Man

Harry LimeI rarely write things that are just personal, just something about my life. Tonight, late, I was on YouTube and just taking the liberty to listen to a couple of old songs from my early youth, not something I do very often at all.

So I’ll share something personal with you. Some of the more formative years of my life were spent in Vienna, Austria. Vienna just sort of sat well with me. It got to me. It rang my bell. That was about as close to east Europe as one could get back then and not be behind “the Iron Curtain.” It was very much like a central European city, not really like West Europe at all. When I first got there, I saw old women walking around with very bowed legs. I found this was the result of them living through World War II there where the hunger and rickets was so bad that they had developed bowed legs from a lack of nutrition.

prater 2And I don’t know when the movie, “The Third Man” was first happening in my life. But that movie, and particularly the music to it, just got through to me in a very deep way. It still does and I was listening to it tonight. This movie is just so uncool by modern standards it’s beyond a joke. But it’s maybe like some extremely classic car from way back that doesn’t have all the gadgets and technology that ones do now. But it has a sense of style and intrigue that is just overwhelming.

Let me place right here the link to the theme music of “The Third Man”. This song came out around 1950 (1950!). I mean, it’s like a paraphrase of what Nathaniel said in the book of John, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) The same can be said of 1950, “Can any good thing come out of 1950?!” They didn’t even have televisions back then! Maybe this music won’t get to you but it sure does to me, even now.

The director of “The Third Man”, Carol Reed heard Anton Karas playing the zither in a wine stuba, a neighborhood wine house in Vienna at the time he was making a movie of Graham Greene‘s post World War II book. There’s so very much history in all this which is now only distant water under the bridge and the long forgotten past. But Reed was haunted by this local nobody troubadour and his strange instrument he played for pocket change to Viennese provincials, sitting outside in the evenings in the post war city.

vienna nightThe movie itself is one of the most unusual and best I’ve ever seen. Black and white, no sex, virtually no violence, no real special effects and almost one of those old square screens. But the narrative, the filming, the setting and the acting just keep you hanging on the edge of your seat for the full show. Or at least it did me for me the several times I’ve seen it.

But I’ve always sort of wondered what it is since it could hardly be more basic and non-techno. The instrument, the zither, has some comparisons I guess to a guitar. But the way Anton Karas plays it is just so that he gets all over it and brings out so much that I’m sure some music aficionado could explain much better than me.

Heading out into the neighborhood, looking for adventure

I’ve wondered why that music has such an effect on me. Perhaps I heard it on the radio sometime when I was a little boy and it stuck with me, even though I don’t specifically remember it. Maybe there’s just something intrinsic and indigenous about it that’s the essence of that part of the world which the Lord called me to serve Him in for many years.

The whole thing together just really works. If you’ve never heard that music or seen that movie, I suggest you do some time. It’s like checking out a Dusenberg sedan or something else like that from a bygone era, seemingly put to shame by the marvels we experience nowadays. But every so often we find something from days of yore that still hold us in wonder and the spell they spun for their times still works well today. Try it. You might like it.

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