Friday, November 29, 2013

The City at Night (Vienna)

Becket, November 29, 2013

"Or do ghosts only rise by night, Doctor Winkel? Do you got an opinion on that?" (from a scene in "The Third Man", 1949)

In the earlier part of the 20th century, most if not all night views of the city were an expression of modernity, literally the bright side of modernity. But if the first war hadn't been enough, the second exposed the darker side of modern progress. In Carol Reed's celebrated 1949 movie "The Third Man", the city of Vienna is often portrayed at night, with the light coming from occasional windows or headlights, when not from sources that seem to have been placed by the lighting crew to actually emphasize the darkness of the city.

Several times, the plot of "The Third Man" brings the action to the Hoher Markt. It is the earliest and most important square in the historic core of Vienna, an elongated urban space easily recognizable by Fisher Von Erlach's "Wedding Fountain" (it depicts the marriage of Joseph and Mary.) One of the emblematic camera angles in the movie shows Hoher Markt at night from Judengasse, a small street coming transversally to the center of the square from the north. The light sources seem carefully located to focus not on the architecture or the space, but on the destruction and decay, the badly patched wooden shutters in the foreground, the pile of rubble in front of the fountain and the half collapsed buildings behind.

Yes, the illusions of the shining modern metropolis are a dream of the past.

1 comment :

  1. I`d like to know how to get involved in this course as a lecturer. I run Street Tutorials about Alfred Hitchcock`s use of the city...locations from `The Man Who Knew Too Much` 1956 (with original set art), `Frenzy` and `The Paradine Case`....sound bites included from my own interview with hitchcock 1972.. Cost is now £45