Script To Screen: “The Third Man”

July 10th, 2013 by

Occasionally I like to feature excerpts from screenplays from eras gone by. First I happen to love all movies, including old ones. Second it’s interesting to compare how screenplay style has changed over the years.

Today we take a look at a scene from the 1949 movie The Third Man, screen play by Graham Greene.

Logline: Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, black-market opportunist Harry Lime.

This is the end scene, one of the most memorable in cinema history.

MED. SHOT - PRIEST

with graveyard attendant and his assistant beside him.

                         PRIEST
            Herr gib ihnen die ewige ruh und
            das ewige licht leutche ihnen. Herr
            lass sie ruhen in frieden. Amen. In
            namen des vaters des sohnes und des
            heiligen geistes. Amen.

He sprinkles spoonful of soil on the grave, then moves to
exit CR. Music starts.

MED. SHOT - MARTINS

CL f.g. - Anna facing the new grave. She takes spoon of
earth from graveyard attendant and sprinkles it on grave -
moving to exit CR.

CLOSEUP - MARTINS

Calloway walks up to him from behind.

LONG SHOT - THE GRAVEYARD

with Harry's new grave in f.g. Martins CL - Calloway's back
to camera. They move downstage - Martins replacing his hat.

LONG SHOT - ROAD

CR of the graveyard, Anna walking upstage, back to camera.
She exits CR.

MED. LONG SHOT - JEEP

in R f.g. Calloway enters it RL. Martins walks round the
back of it, looking at watch - then off CL, after the
departing Anna.

                         CALLOWAY
            What time is it?

                         MARTINS
            Two thirty.

LONG SHOT - ANNA

walking upstage, back to camera.

CLOSE SHOT - CALLOWAY

seated in R profile in jeep - Martins gets in LR, beside him.
The jeep drives out CR.

                         CALLOWAY
            I'll have to step on it, if you're
            going to catch that plane.

CLOSE TWO SHOT - MARTINS

CL and Calloway CR - riding in the open jeep LR. CAMERA
TRACKS IN to single CU of Martins looking off R for Calloway.
He looks back over his shoulder.

                         MARTINS
            Calloway, can't you do something
            about Anna?

                         CALLOWAY (O.S.)
            I'll do what I can, if she'll let me.

LONG SHOT - ANNA

walking along the street - CAMERA DOLLYING BACK as from
Martins' eye line in jeep. She gets further and further away.

CLOSE TWO SHOT - MARTINS AND CALLOWAY

seated in jeep, driving RL.

                         MARTINS
            Wait a minute - let me out.

                         CALLOWAY
            Well, there's not much time.

                         MARTINS
            One can't just leave - please.

MED. SHOT - JEEP

drives up to curb LR - Martins climbs out near side to
camera and CAMERA PANS RL as he moves to back of jeep and
takes out his grip and turns away to exit CL. We HOLD
Calloway in back of jeep, looking after him.

                         CALLOWAY
            Be sensible, Martins.

                         MARTINS
            I haven't got a sensible name,
            Calloway.

LONG SHOT

along the avenue of trees, Anna in far b.g., walking
downstage. Martins enters from CR f.g., moving upstage, back
to camera. He puts down his grip on a cart in L f.g. and
stands waiting.

CLOSE SHOT - CALLOWAY

in jeep looking back over his shoulder off L for Martins. He
starts to drive away upstage.

LONG SHOT - MARTINS

in L f.g., Anna in the middle of the road, coming downstage
toward camera. She passes Martins without a glance, and
continues on, looking straight ahead of her and out of
picture CR - Martins takes out a cigarette and lights it.

                                            FADE OUT

                           THE END

Here is the movie version of the scene:

Love that last LONG SHOT: “She passes Martins without a glance.” Picture worth a thousand words.

Questions to ask to analyze the scene:

* What elements in the movie scene are the same as the script?

* What elements in the movie scene are different than the script?

* Regarding the differences, put yourself in the mindset of the filmmakers and speculate: Why did they make the changes they did?

* How did the changes improve the scene?

* Alternatively are there elements in the script, not present in the movie, that are better than the final version of the scene?

* Note each camera shot in the movie version. Which of them does the script suggest via sluglines or scene description?

* How does the script convey a sense of the scene’s tone, feel, and pace through scene description and dialogue?

* What ‘magic’ exists in the movie that is not indicated in the words of the script? How do you suppose that magic emerged?

I’ll see you in comments for a discussion of this terrific scene from The Third Man.

One of the single best things you can do to learn the craft of screenwriting is to read the script while watching the movie. After all a screenplay is a blueprint to make a movie and it’s that magic of what happens between printed page and final print that can inform how you approach writing scenes. That is the purpose of Script to Screen, a weekly series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.

UPDATE: John Geraci has an excellent post here analyzing The Third Man.

4 thoughts on “Script To Screen: “The Third Man”

  1. John Geraci says:

    Hey Scott,

    Great piece.
    I’ve always loved this movie. I did a blog article on it for Criminal Element. If you get a chance, take a look.
    http://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2013/01/still-casting-film

    1. Scott says:

      John, check that link because I think it’s broken. Happy to include it in an update to the OP if you get me a link that works.

  2. Great stuff, Scott! So much said with so few lines.

  3. Fritzl says:

    You could at least get the German lines correct:

    Herr gib ihnen die ewige Ruh und
    das ewige Licht leuchte ihnen. Herr
    lass sie ruhen in Frieden. Amen. In
    Namen des Vaters, des Sohnes und des
    Heiligen Geistes. Amen.

    Fritzl, born in Vienna in 1940

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