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This taut film noir when compared to Carol Reed's masterpieces of that
genre, Odd Man Out and The Third Man, is a flawed gem, but still that -
Filmed in Berlin just eight years after WWII ended, and eight years before the Wall went up, it stars James Mason and Claire Bloom as star-crossed lovers in a city still digging itself out of the rubble made by Allied bombs, and still taking refugees from the east of Europe. The story tells of Susanne Mallison, a young Englishwoman who has arrived in Berlin to visit her older brother Martin, an army physician in the British sector of the city, and his German wife Bettina. It is while Susanne and Bettina are spending a day in the eastern sector, that Bettina finds herself reluctantly introducing Susanne to an old friend, the suave and handsome Ivo Kern. Susanne doesn't like Ivo at first -the audience isn't supposed to either - and she immediately becomes suspicious that he and Bettina are having a clandestine affair. She is curious though about the man, but will she learn the truth about Ivo and his mysterious background?
Meanwhile off the set of the film there was more going on behind the scenes between the two stars. From the book 'James Mason - A Personal Biography', by Mason's former sister-in-law and life long friend, Diana de Rosso: "I was to observe another side of his character, rarely disclosed, when he came to London to finish filming The Man Between. He was a frequent visitor to our London home and he began to bring with him increasingly, his ethereally lovely co-star Claire Bloom...He showed a marked interest in the young actress. There was a quality about her, a stillness and tranquillity which set her apart from most artists her age, yet she had a pointed wit and a fine intelligence, virtues which appealed to James - and it was quite apparent that he was in danger of losing his heart. In truth I believe his heart was lost...His attachment to Claire was purely romantic. They used to sit on the floor together in our house, hand in hand, plainly adoring each other..."
But as with Ivo and Susanne, it was the same with James and Claire. Mason did not divorce his estranged wife Pamela Kellino, and de Rosso was surprised that he didn't, but she has some theories. When he finally did get his divorce a few years later, Claire had moved on to other things in her career and private life. Still, when they met again several years later, it was clear that Mason still was very fond of her and she likewise.
When I first saw this film I questioned whether Mason's German accent was very good, but when I lent it to a pair of friends who are German, they said that he did a good job. As for the German supporting cast, it is the best, especially the lovely Hildegard Neff, and the hauntingly beautiful musical score catches the bleak feeling of the city during a cold winter. They are also reasons I list this as one of my favourite film noir productions.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Carol Reed and James Mason...it's Odd Man Out, isn't it? Wrong! Reed
and Mason also teamed up for the rarely-seen, relatively inferior, yet
quite valuable The Man Between six years later. While the film is
nowhere near the masterpiece that Odd Man Out is, it has a number of
redeeming virtues and is a must-see for James Mason fans.
Reed again focused his plot on his events that occur in city in turmoil. Last time it was Belfast and Vienna (The Third Man. Now it's post-war Berlin, and Germany divided into two. Reed liked these atmospheric, shadowy, morally bleak settings (they become almost a "character" in the film), and the physical (the East-West divide in Berlin, the zones of Austria) and emotional (the attitudes of the citizens of Belfast)barriers that engulf and separate people.
The Man Between was filmed in both Berlin and London, as Odd Man Out was also in Belfast and London and The Third Man in Vienna and England. Yet it doesn't have the visual pull of the other two films- perhaps because Robert Krasker is missing, but probably more so due to a smaller budget. The photography is nowhere near as inspired as in the other two films, and the filming in the first half of The Man Between is rather flat and ordinary. Once we get to the "love-on-the-run" scenes however, it picks up markedly and we start getting the trademark Reed camera tilts, shadowy streets and inspired visual flair.
Claire Bloom, that lovely, intelligent, graceful and ethereal actress, gives a wonderful performance as Sussan Mallison, a young English girl who travels to Berlin to visit her brother and his wife Bettina (the excellent German actress Hildegaarde Neff, looking strikingly like Ginger Rogers!). The film is really about Susan's personal journey, as she goes from seeing things in black-and-white at the beginning of the film to falling in love with Ivo Kern (James Mason), a criminal.
Ivo Kern immediately draws comparisons to Harry Lime in The Third Man and many have referred to Mason's performance (and the overall film) as a pale imitation of the earlier film, and a desperate attempt by Reed to repeat the success of The Third Man. Well, I have to disagree. Of course Reed wanted to make another film as successful, but he doesn't tell the same story in this film, no. The narrative is much more focused around the romance between Sussan and Ivo, whereas Lime is callous in his treatment of Anna (Valli), telling Holly Martin "to be good to Anna, you'll find that she's worth it". He only really sees her as a person that he can use; Kern wants to protect Sussan. And Kern, even though he is delved into post-war crime activities, still maintains his moral core...he seems tired, an unwilling accomplice in the attempt to get hold of Kestner.
Perhaps the film falters in that's it's themes and concerns are not as powerful as Odd Man Out or The Third Man, Reed seems to be lacking inspiration at times here. But the performances are excellent- Mason and Bloom are a joy to watch.Apparently Mason fell deeply in love with the young actress at the time of filming. And the chemistry shows. They seem so intuitive together in their acting-its the quiet moments, the glances and the touch of a hand, that almost give it away. They only kiss once, but it's still probably Mason's hottest screen kiss. It is lovely to watch these two work together, and so poignant (when you know about the off-screen stuff) to watch their final scenes together ("Will we ever meet again, Ivo?").
Perhaps the film's main flaw is that the first half is much too plot-driven, you really have to pay close attention to the film to know what is going on with the Kestner plot, otherwise you'll be confused (the heavily accented English from the German actors makes it even harder, though Neff is a clear and wonderful speaker). Mason too affects a German accent, similar to what he did with Rommel in The Desert Rats (he sounds a lot like one of my Uni lecturers who is German, so he must have been doing something right).
See it for the wonderful Mason and Bloom performances, chemistry and their scenes together. It's a good little film.
Vintage Reed with all the elements from his films of the period. The
innocent (Bloom) whose view needs to be muddied. The world weary, complex
hero/villain. The confusion and ambiguities veering between love and hate,
trust and betrayal, weakness and strength. Humans pulled from their
comfortable lives and twisted by circumstance. The worn surroundings of war
torn Berlin an extra character in the plot.
All this in typical stark angled Reed view, with an atmospheric signature
tune used noticeably towards the end, and a scene sequence mirroring the
ambiguities of the characters.
Whilst the film doesn't flow as fluently and seamlessly as The Third Man, Mason and Bloom create eminently watchable if not entirely rounded characters.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sometimes a good movie blows you away from the get-go. This one took
the light of the next day. Carol Reed cleverly disguises his picture
with post war intrigue and ambiguous alliances / conspiracies in the
first half, but this is ultimately at its heart the story of an
impossible romance attempted at an impossible time. While it takes a
good half of the movie to get to the real plot, once it cooks, it
sizzles. The extended chase sequence in the last third of the movie
probably tops the far more famous THE THIRD MAN, though it is a little
less frantic and far more deliberately cat and mouse.
All of the cast is excellent, including the fetching and intriguing blonde wife, the mysterious young bicyclist, and the rotund, scheming elder German kidnapper. Leads James Mason and Claire Bloom (never prettier or sexier) have amazing chemistry as the picture develops, and one really wishes they had gotten together an hour earlier, because this is the heart of the matter and the meat of the movie.
Another major star of this movie is the location photography. The light and shadows draped on the characters flitting in and out of the jagged yet beautiful exo-skeletel ruins and debris of the once-glorious, cosmopolitan city of Berlin are hypnotic and amazing. The cinematography is remarkable; there is great POV work of the snow-covered kidnap vehicle stalking Bloom, but even better camera angles and lighting creativity in the bravura chase in the last 20 minutes (shockingly good given this film's relative anonymity.)
This isn't THE THIRD MAN or ODD MAN OUT, but it contains most of the best elements of each movie, plus a better romance than either of those. Interesting that Claire Bloom is forced to watch helplessly as James Mason is shot down at the end of MAN BETWEEN. Only about eight years later she would share the same fate at a similar location on the Berlin border in the searing THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD. A heartbreaking must for fans of postwar noir, Mason or Bloom.
In 1947,James Mason worked with Carol REED,in "Odd man out" (in
Belfast).This work was influenced by Marcel Carné's "realisme poétique" and
cast Mason as a fugitive.Both "odd man out" and "the man between " have
similar endings,except for the female part.
Berlin atmosphere (like Vienna in 'the third man') is well rendering,with the claustrophobia you used to feel during the Wall days. There are plotholes,but the cast easily makes up for that.The couple Mason /Bloom is very endearing:Mason 's character is a man whose ideals have been betrayed and his love for the beautiful English woman he tries to save is touching .Actually ,at the beginning,Mason was not friendly,he was even disturbing,but his moral stature ceaselessly grows towards the end.The two stars get good support from German thespian Hildegarde Kneff,whom we miss in the second part.
This movie might have influenced two sixties work:"the spy who came in from the cold"(Martin Ritt,1965) which featured Claire Bloom again,and "torn curtain" (1966),one of Hitchcock's minor movies in which we find a theater again!FF Coppola in "godfather III" ,like Carol Reed,took advantage of this by using opera music to enhance particular scenes.
Although inferior to 'the third man" (neither Welles nor Karas) "odd man out' or even "fallen idol" (1948),"the man between " deserves to be seen.
This moody, atmospheric piece holds up extremely well (maybe even better than when it was first released). The two stars, James Mason and Claire Bloom, are fabulous and their chemistry is palpable, especially in the last quarter of the film. As other comments have mentioned, just the moral ambiguity coupled with the physical backdrop of Berlin shortly after the war enhances the story tremendously. Mason delivers another complex performance, by turns charming and sardonic, quickly turning to cynical and dark. Claire Bloom is lovely and her talent comes shining through, particularly in the last half of the film as she and Mason begin to heat up together. The music and the cinematography add immeasurably to creating an 'other worldliness' to this movie. If you find the plot drags a little at the beginning, stick with it because the intensity picks up as the plot unfolds. The suspenseful ending feels like a knife in the heart. Definitely a precursor to the The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.
James Mason gives a tour-de-force performance as a tired clerk who knows not who to trust. Hildegrade Knef is magnificent in a complex supporting role. Carol Reed has directed some great movies and this is among his best. The ending sequence is so poignant, it always brings tears to the eyes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Carol Reed's lesser-known "sequel" to his "The Third Man" is
classic retrospective on the divided city of Berlin in the early days of the Cold War. It is a sequel in atmosphere not story, and is less gimmicky and more human than the film from Vienna.
But the same fear and betrayal are palpable in the air, as Ivo Kerr, a shop-soiled but decent dealer with both sides is compelled by his fondness for a naive English school teacher to pass through the Brandenburg Gate "just one more time." The ending, as expected, is not happy, but that final image in the snow will never be forgotten.
The bleak war-torn settings of East and West Germany during the
post-war years of WWII provide a suitable backdrop for a rather cold
tale involving complex characters and moral ambiguities.
The story's first half takes time to set up the murky relationships between CLAIRE BLOOM, HILDEGARD KNEF and JAMES MASON before settling down to some quieter moments and romantic overtones when the chemistry between the young girl (Bloom) and the dangerous criminal (Mason) becomes evident. It's their relationship in the second half of the story that heats up some of the cold war atmosphere of the tale.
Suspense mounts as they hide out from the German authorities, but all the while one gets the feeling that all will not end well for the ill-fated pair who have fallen deeply in love.
If you liked the somber atmosphere of films like ODD MAN OUT and THE THIRD MAN, you'll definitely enjoy the atmospheric effects achieved in the crisp B&W photography on display here. Outstanding photography in scene after scene, although the story itself never quite achieves the same degree of finesse as the previously mentioned Carol Reed films.
Nevertheless, it's all extremely well acted. Mason has never been more effective as a complex man full of moral ambiguities and Bloom is given a wonderful chance to display her charm and sensitivity in a well-written role.
Definitely worth watching.
In the Post-World War II, the British Susanne Mallison (Claire Bloom)
travels to Berlin to visit her older brother Martin Mallison (Geoffrey
Toone), a military that has married the German Bettina Mallison
(Hildegarde Neff). The naive Susanne snoops on Bettina and suspects
that she is hiding a secret from her brother.
When Susanne meets Bettina with her friend Ivo Kern (James Mason), he offers to show Berlin to her and they date. But Ivo meets the strange Halendar (Aribert Waescher) from the East Germany and Susanne takes a cab and return to her home alone. Then she dates Ivo again and he meets Olaf Kastner (Ernst Schroeder), who is a friend of Martin and Bettina. But soon Susanne, who has fallen in love with Ivo, learns that he was a former attorney married to Bettina in East Germany but with a criminal past during the war. Now he is blackmailed by Halendar to kidnap Kastner and bring him back to the other side of the border. The plan fails and Halender asks his men to abduct Bettina to get Kastner. However, Susanne is kidnapped by mistake and is imprisoned in the basement of a house in East Berlin. Now Ivo plots a plan to rescue Susanne from Halender and help her to cross the border. Will they succeed in their intent?
"The Man Between" is another wonderful classic by Carol Reed with suspense and romance in the post-war Berlin totally destroyed, in the same environment of Rossellini's "Germania Anno Zero" or Billy Wilder's "A Foreign Affair". James Mason has another top-notch performance in the role of Ivo Kern, a cynical man that changes his behavior when he meets the naive and charming character performed by Claire Bloom. Their chemistry is fantastic and Hildegarde Neff is a very beautiful woman. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "O Outro Homem" ("The Other Man")
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