childishness doesn’t express itself in naivernheroism. Instead, he operates on onernprinciple only: heedless self-interest.rnThe Ferris wheel expresses him perfecdy.rnUnlike the cemetery path, it has no beginningrnor end. For Lime, life is a circularrnseries of amusements, swirling aboutrnhim as he stands, a bemused ringmaster,rnat its center. From this position, he coollyrngauges the value of other people byrnone criterion only: the degree to whichrnthey either help or hinder his comfort.rnyMthough charming, he is a monster whornattracts people and then uses them remorselesslyrnto advance his own interests.rnWhen the Brits seem to be closing in onrnhim, he has no compunction about sellingrnout his Czechoslovakian mistress tornthe Russians in order to save himself AsrnMartins puts it in Greene’s text, “evil wasrnlike Peter Pan —it carried with it the horrifyingrnand horrible gift of eternal vouth,”rna perspective from which other peoplernare not quite real; they’re merely conveniencesrnor obstacles. That’s why Limerncan make Martins an extraordinar)’ offerrnon the Ferris wheel. At the ride’s apex,rnthey stand in a swinging cabin, the cityscapernseesawing crazily in the background.rnDisgusted by his friend’s evidentrnshamelessness, Martins asks him, “Havernyou ever seen one of your victims?” As anrnanswer, Harry beckons Holly to the cabinrnwindow and bids him to look on the peoplernin the amusement park below, nowrnmere specks:rnVicdms? Don’t be melodramahc.rnWould you really feel any pit’ ifrnone of those dots stopped movingrnforever? If I offered you 20,000rnpounds for every dot that stops,rnwould you really, old man, tell mernto keep my money? Or would yourncalculate how many dots you couldrnafford to spare?rnAfter all, he cheerily rationalizes, he’srndoing no more than governments do.rn”They talk about the people and the proletariat.rnI talk about the suckers and thernmugs. It’s the same thing. They haverntheir five-year plans and so ha’e I.” Onerncould hardly imagine a more chillingrnparody of Christ’s temptation in the desert.rnLime makes his argument with suchrncunning confidence in its irresistibilityrnthat he backhandedly indicts our entirerncentury, if not all human historv’. Howrnmany of us have steadfasdy rejected hisrnSatanic temptation? How often have ourrnleaders chosen to sacrifice the dots on thernground in the cause of some higher politicalrngoal—the classless state, sa, or nationalrnidentit}—when what they were reallyrnafter was the cheapest of bribes, thernso-called power and glory of this world?rnHow many dots have we sacrificed in Serbia?rnReed stingingly delivers one of Greene’srncentral messages: No one has cleanrnhands, least of all those who hold officialrnauthority. It turns out that Harry’s penicillinrnracket was made possible by the Allies’rnoccupation forces. They decided tornrestrict the antibiotic to ftieir militap,’ hospitals,rnkeeping it from the Austrians.rnReed widens the indictment with a sort ofrnmacabre grace note supplied by the runningrngag of Holly mistaking Calloway’srnname time and again: He keeps callingrnhim Callaghan until the exasperated majorrnfinally points out, “I’m British, notrnIrish.” Yes, so you are, one thinks. Otherrnthan that, you’re as fine a chap as the restrnof us good souls. It’s just that we’re all arnbit compromised by those nagging entanglementsrnwe have with our respectiverntribalisms and self-interests.rnAlthough leavened by theologicalrnhope, Greene’s story is, in his narrator’srnwords, “grim and sad and unrelieved.”rnReed, however, had the visual wit to turnrnit into popular entertainment. He brightenedrnGreene’s grayness without sacrificingrnany of his provocative darkness.rnWhat seems bleak on the page fairlyrnblazes on the screen, nowhere more sornthan when Welles makes his justly famousrnentrance as Harry Lime, a namernwith a distinctively demonic aura. “OldrnHarry” is British slang for Satan, andrnLime, as Harry’s dialogue reminds us,rnsuggests limelight and Lucifer’s pre-fallenrnsplendor. After hearing the otherrncharacters discuss this scoundrel obsessivelyrnfor 59 minutes, we become —atrnleast on first viewing —accustomed tornthinking of him as an absence whosernpresence is felt everywhere, almost arnThomistic version of evil. Then Limernsuddenly appears, and the screen flaresrnwith an energy that we could hardfy havernanticipated. Old Harn,- will only be onrnscreen for 11 minutes, but what an 11rnminutes!rnLurking in the shadows of a doorway.rnLime is revealed to us when a window isrnopened above, illuminating him. As therncamera trucks slowly forward, it revealsrnWelles for the first time. In extremernclose-up, his face seems the radiant, incandescentrnsource of all the world’s lightrnas he smiles at us with a conspirator’srnknowing welcome. You”e been lookingrnfor me, his expression mockingly says.rnWell, hov’ do like what you see? With anrnarch smile on his overfed but still handsomelyrnrakish visage, Welles is physicallyrnthe incarnation of debonair sleaze. Thernmasterfully contrived scene defines Limerninstantiy. He is a charming, fallen angelrnof light emerging from his chosen darkness,rnas unbowed as he is unrepentant.rnWe instantiy understand why others arerndrawn to him. He may be morally contemptible,rnbut he is also a vital, quicksilverrnLucifer, who speaks seductively to therninfantile wantonness in us all.rnTypical of Greene’s vision, Lime becomesrnboth satan and savior to the innocentrnMartins, at once a source of temptationrnand an occasion to redeem himselfrnIn Greene’s excessively Augustinian universe,rnno one is saved without first takingrnthe sacrament of sin. Martins does this byrnawakening to his complicity with the engagingrnHarry. It’s dupes like himself whornlicense such predators.rnThus Lime, who had been the elusivernthird man at his fake accident, becomesrnunintentionally quite a different thirdrnman, the one who shows up in Chapterrn24 of Saint Luke’s gospel. In this passage,rntwo disconsolate disciples are walking tornEmmaus after Christ’s Crucifixion. Asrnthey proceed, they suddenly notice therernis a third man walking with them. Onlyrnwhen they pause to break bread togetherrnare their eyes opened. The third man isrnJesus.rnThis is the film’s faith: that despite ourrnineradicable selfishness, we neverthelessrnserve as instruments of one another’s salvation.rnGreene, perhaps, but not grim.rnThis article first appeared as a Vital Signsrnin the August 1999 issue.rn48/CHRONICLESrnrnrn