Tag Archives the Jews

MEDITATIONS

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The Third Man…a revelation…’

Martin Scorsese, THE INDEPENDENT, 2015

 

There is no mention in Graham Greene’s novella

The Third Man, or in his screenplay, or even

the shooting script, of Café Marc Aurel –

to which, in the movie, Joseph Cotten

aka Holly Martins, writer of Westerns,

has lured his friend Orson Welles aka

Harry Lime, racketeer, only to be

thwarted by Allida Valli aka

Anna Schimdt, actress at the Josefstadt

Theater, and Harry Lime’s faithful lover.

 

***

 

On a rainy day trip to old Vienna,

knowing the Café did not exist

and never did, we were determined

to see the extant Weiner Riesenrad,

from whose brief circular zenith Orson Welles

meditated on the human condition,

democracy, and Swiss-made cuckoo clocks.

 

So who better to ask for directions

among the shopping crowds on Kaernterstrasse

than two young men in smart-casual attire

manning a stall promoting the Marcus

Aurelius Foundation, whose mission is

‘to support young people to live a life of

clarity and purpose’ through Stoicism.

Where else than the city of Freud and Mahler

to learn how to live with the fear of death!

 

***

 

Marcus Aurelius – sixteenth Emperor

of Rome and last of the Pax Romana –

is most famous now for his Meditations,

a collection of his stoical

aphorisms, two of which are as follows:

‘We love ourselves more than other people,

yet care more about their opinion

than our own…’ – and ‘If it is not right do not

do it; if it is not true do not say it…’

 

The Emperor while campaigning against

the Germanic Tribes died, allegedly,

in Vindobona, present day Vienna.

Some say he had just inscribed

the following: ‘Act as if every

action is the last action of your life’.

 

***

 

The Café’s name is secure in black and white

celluloid above a shop front

in a partially bombed square

just round the corner from Marc-Aurel-Strasse:

the interior lit from a distance

to look like a café – though the action

was filmed at Elstree Studios, Borehamwood,

London. The film unit on the spot

must have decided the place needed a name

so perhaps Greene, the ever ironic

Balliol history graduate, suggested

Marcus Aurelius – and Carol Reed,

the director, chose the shortened version

to fit. Did Greene mention that the emperor

most probably died somewhere else,

namely Sirmium, one of the oldest

cities in Europe, and birthplace of ten

Roman emperors, now present day

Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia?

Both Harry and Marcus elusive in death?

 

***

 

The Emperor was cremated and deified.

In Rome’s Piazza Colonna – off

the Via Del Corso, where the Jews

were paraded and mocked each Mardi Gras –

is a column commemorating

the Emperor’s victories in battle

(though not, of course, his Meditations),

probably begun in his lifetime.

When Christianity prevailed his statue

topping it was replaced by one of St Paul

aka Saul of Tarsus, Anatolia –

now present day Turkey – the city

where Mark Antony first met Cleopatra.

 

***

 

In the movie, whose constant backdrop

are the literal ruins of bombed Vienna,

with the four Occupying Powers – Britain,

France, Russia, and the USA – playing

a key role in the story as both

dei and diaboli ex machina,

nobody ever asks where the Jews have gone.

 

 

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