First-class trib­ute to The Third Man

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - JOHN MIN­NERY KELVIN GROVE, QUEENS­LAND

We were taken by friends to the lit­tle-known Third Man Mu­seum when we were in Vi­enna re­cently. It’s lo­cated in Press­gasse and run by vol­un­teers as a homage to the fa­mous 1949 film The Third Man. The mu­seum has an eclec­tic col­lec­tion of posters, doc­u­ments, pho­to­graphs, let­ters and other pre­cious trivia re­lated to the pro­duc­tion, its stars and mu­sic and its jour­ney around the world.

We know it as star­ring Or­son Welles, but the real star of the film is post-World War II Vi­enna. The mu­seum de­votes much of its space to this his­toric con­text with some com­pelling dis­plays of the city be­fore and im­me­di­ately af­ter 1945. You can al­most feel the shat­tered build­ings and smell the pop­u­la­tion’s de­spair. But what is most dev­as­tat­ing is the in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics of greed and power.

Post-war Vi­enna was di­vided into four zones, each con­trolled by one of the four vic­to­ri­ous Al­lied pow­ers: Bri­tain, the US, France and the Soviet Union. The city cen­tre was an “in­ter­na­tional zone” where con­trol was shared. You’re shown how the pa­trols of this zone were car­ried out by four sol­diers in each Jeep, al­ways with an Amer­i­can driver with a Bri­tish front-seat pas­sen­ger, then a Rus­sian and a French­man to­gether in the back. The Rus­sians in their zone ef­fec­tively stole Aus­trian oil and shipped it back to the Soviet Union. The mu­seum dis­plays de­pict all too clearly the back­ground to the black­mar­ket oper­a­tions of the film’s anti-hero, Harry Lime.

One of the mu­seum or­gan­is­ers is a film fa­natic and geek. He had to ne­go­ti­ate for part of the orig­i­nal film to be shown on a clunky old-style movie pro­jec­tor. Copyright prob­lems meant only two min­utes of the story could be shown, but he rigged up a con­tin­u­ous loop to do this. His en­thu­si­asm and that of the other vol­un­teers is in­fec­tious.

Cities are con­structed of lay­ers of history. This history is not al­ways pleas­ant, but it is real. The Third Man Mu­seum il­lus­trates a dark pe­riod of Vi­enna’s past through a vol­un­teer group’s love af­fair with an iconic film. Of course, we bought the DVD when we re­turned to Aus­tralia and it’s as good as we re­mem­bered. But I don’t think we’ll start a mu­seum. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@theaus­tralian.com.au. Colum­nists re­ceive a copy of Flavours of Queens­land (Smudge Pub­lish­ing, $80), an il­lus­trated vol­ume of restau­rants, bars, cafes and farm­ers’ mar­kets from across the state, com­plete with recipes. More: smudgeeats.com.au.

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