Second #4464, 74:24, Image © Studio Canal
We find Anna, again, in the clutches of the British military’s investigations, though this time she has been pulled in as a potential witness. Calloway begins his interrogation with a characteristically brusque interruption, “Now then, Miss Schmidt, I’m not interested in your forged papers – that’s purely a Russian case. When did you last see Lime?” With this vaguest hint of absolution with regards to her phony papers, an unsaid “help us and we can help you,” Calloway is trying to draw something useful about Harry from her, assuming that this man must still be communicating with his former paramour. But Anna is looking out from a different world. Her glazed eyes and ignorant expression, and the fact that she keeps muttering things like, “I’m sorry – I don’t seem able to understand anything you say,” tells us, even if Calloway is still oblivious, that she is telling the truth.
Harry, a man who Calloway considers to be supremely reprehensible, “the worst racketeer that ever made a dirty living in this city,” has not even contacted Anna to tell her that he is still alive. He has allowed her to live in grief, digging through his apartment for photos, wearing his monogrammed pajamas and generally sinking into a grief-fueled depression. While Holly has already been convinced of the darkness in Harry’s character, through a montage-load of evidenciary files, his own devaluing of his friend’s character has been based on a moral system set in law, namely good people don’t racketeer nor do they fake their own death, a truth that is less true if only that it is based on a man-made social structure rather than an emotional truth. This moment, however, sheds a shadowy coloring to Harry’s persona in a purely emotional way, with Anna’s glassy expression reflecting back Harry’s selfishness. Indeed, what kind of person, no matter their perspective on the law, puts someone they love through that kind of pain? How could Harry let Anna suffer, thinking that he is dead?
If Anna has ever had doubts about Harry’s inherent goodness, now is the moment they would grow to fruition. But Anna is so blindsided by this assertion that she completely shuts down. While she certainly had doubts about the official story being put out by the police inquest (she told Holly “I know. I wondered about it a hundred times, if it really was an accident,” and even “He’s better dead. I knew he was mixed up, but…not like that.”), she is so flabbergasted that the idea that Harry might still be alive must have never crossed her mind. That Harry could be alive and be so callous as to let her mourn him must never have crossed her mind, and as her brain reprograms itself to allow these new facts to exist, nothing else matters, not even her pending deportation to the Russian sector.
Anna’s repeated mutterings are symptoms of her difficulty parsing the facts that have just come to light. The idea that Harry is alive just cannot make sense in her mental schema, and her disconnect from reality is due to the mental reprogramming necessary for this to “compute.” But unlike Robot B-9 (above) or HAL 9000 (below) Anna doesn’t have the mental acuity of a machine. Her sense of self and sense of purpose is not mechanically fixed, and when faced with an unacceptable truth, her elastic mind can change to accommodate that truth. Either that, or as our dear friend Freud would imagine, she might repress that unthinkable thought, and give herself some variety of neurosis.
Whichever way she chooses to deal with this problem, we won’t know yet, since after this frame we won’t see Anna for another month (her next appearance is in Still Dots #84, on September 20th) but we can understand her last word, the one that closes the scene, as a psychoanalytic response to this fact that she has learned about Harry. As she leaves this room full of hapless interrogators, Anna turns to Calloway, seemingly pulling herself together, and says “Poor Harry, I wish he was dead, he would be safe from all of you then.” Any psychoanalyst worth their salt would undoubtedly have more to say about this comment, but to my untrained mind, Anna is telling a truth through her sarcastic outburst. What she really means, barely hidden in the phrasing, is “I wish he was dead, I would be safe from what it means that he is alive.”
Over the absolute length of one year — two times per week — Still Dots will grab a frame every 62 seconds of Carol Reed’s The Third Man. This project will run until December 2012, when we finish at second 6324. For a complete archive of the project, click here. For an introduction to the project, click here.