The first few scenes of the film show Holly Martins flying to Vienna. It is more than your average 'flying shot' for it reveals a certain amount of information about both the passenger and his destination. Vienna was not, as it is today, a city relatively free from immigration restrictions. The first scene establishes this, as it does Martins' nationality: He is a Canadian. The vice-consul who issues his visa reminds him that Vienna is an occupied city and to be 'extremely careful to observe all official regulations.' We learn also the purpose of Martins' visit, to join a friend of his, 'named Lime... Harry Lime.'

Animations superimposed over an aerial shot of Vienna remind us quite how 'occupied' the city is: the English, the French, the Americans and the Russians all knit into a 'crazy patchwork' of four zones that lie around the central international zone or 'Inner Stadt'. Martins lands in this strange city to be met by ... no one. That is, no one except the awkward conglomerate of four soldiers each representing one of the four powers that occupy the city. Harry Lime has let him down. Martins enquires at the Information desk but there is no message waiting for him from his friend. He waits hopefully but in vain.

Imagine the scene: you arrive after a long and uncomfortable flight, only to find that there is nobody waiting to meet you. You find yourself in a strange city, all the stranger for its quartet of occupant powers and your lack of money. This is by no means a reassuring situation. Then imagine this: you make it to your friend's address, your only contact among the bomb-shelters and ruins, and find that he is dead; that his new home is in a wooden box, six feet below earth so hard that electric drills are required to break it open.

It is worth looking to the book here for it provides a fuller account of Martins' relationship with Harry Lime:

'How quickly one becomes aware of silence even in so silent a city as Vienna with the snow steadily settling. Martins hadn't reached the second floor before he was convinced that he wouldn't find Lime there, but the silence was so deeper than just absence - it was as if he would not find Lime anywhere in Vienna... that Lime, the Lime that he had hero-worshipped now for twenty years, sine the first meeting in a grim school corridor with a cracked bell ringing for prayers was gone. Martins wasn't entirely wrong.' (11ff.)

Before Martins leaves for the cemetery, the porter of Lime's apartment block gives him some very important information about Lime's death:

'... An accident... saw it myself... on his own doorstep... bang, bowled over like a rabbit. Killed at once... ' [9]

There is not a large gathering around the grave: merely the priest, two men, and a girl. At a distance, 'more like an observer than a participant' [10] stands a man whom we soon come to know as Major Calloway. The ceremony is fairly perfunctory, the priest rapidly mumbling the words of the Requiem, the two men rather awkwardly performing their duty as mourners and the girl sobbing quietly. Thus, Martins' hero is laid to rest.

Calloway, whose perspective on Lime is somewhat different, relates that he was surprised to see Martins cry:

'He didn't look like a man who wept, nor was Lime the kind of man whom I thought likely to have mourners, genuine mourners with genuine tears.' (15)

It was perhaps this that prompted Calloway to 'interview' Martins. A file needs to portray its subject from as many angles possible to give a complete picture. It aspires to the Platonic ideal: in this case, the subject is not a couch but Harry Lime; the observer must see all possible angles of Lime's image to fully conceive the 'ideal', the quintessential Lime:

'It was odd how like the Lime he knew was to the Lime that I knew: it was only that he looked at Lime's image from a different angle or in a different light.' (19)

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