Grahame Greene, using the voice of Orson Wells, lays down in a few sentences what the western world has been doing since the War. A death cult.
Harry Lime is the new man who has lost his faith, his hope and his honour. He is, simply, modernity personified.
"Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don't why should we? They talk about the people and the proletariat; I talk about the suckers and the mugs, it's the same thing. They have their five-year plans and so have I."
"You used to believe in God."
"I still do believe in God, old man. I believe in God and mercy and ...all that. But the dead are happier dead. They don't miss much here, poor devils. What do you believe in?"
The opening words of the film are what the whole thing is about: "I never knew the old Vienna before the war with its Strauss music, its glamour and its easy charm. Constantinople suited me better. I really got to know it in the classic period of the black market. We'd run anything if people wanted it enough - mmm - had the money to pay."
All that has gone before, no matter how beautiful and how meaningful, is gone. No one knows it and it doesn't matter now.