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Casablanca

Before I even began watching Casablanca, I had already viciously stereotyped it based on the countless terrible “old movies” I’d unwillingly been made to watch in school. I was fully expecting bad actors, cheesy comedy, and a storyline either too complicated to understand or too dull to pay any attention to. However, I was presented with an unexpectedly powerful movie complete with genius delivery of lines on the actor’s part and an intriguing, well- woven plot that kept me interested from beginning to end.

In so many ways, one could say that there’s nothing special about Casablanca. It was made during a time when it was not uncommon for a studio to make three or four movies in a year. No special effects or new cutting edge technology was used, and you could say that the star actors themselves didn’t even want to be in it. Ingrid Bergman only took the part of Ilsa because she didn’t get the role she really wanted, and Humphrey Bogart was squeezing Casablanca in between four other movies. So, in all honesty, this famed classic film was nothing more than another chick flick spit out by the movie industry.

Yet, it was much more than just that. For one thing, the movie succeed in making an anti-war statement without overdoing it, an achievement not to be overlooked. Rather than going into all the gory detail of World War II to make a point, it entered the life of the people affected, humanizing them. The actors were able to portray their characters in a way that showed that no one was purely good or purely evil, but made it very clear that everyone has faults, and everyone has secrets, regardless of whether they are the “good guy” or the “bad guy”. Along with that, Casablanca created a genuine friendship between Sam, the cafe’s black piano player, and Rick Blaine, who was white. By showing a relationship between two people of different races, in a time where “racial superiority” was being stressed, it in affect taught that everyone was equal.

Putting aside all the deep statements this movie makes, it was an absolutely mind blowing love story. Nowadays, most romances follow the same storyline: boy meets girl, they fall in love (cue sappy music), they vow never to see each other again after a completely overdramatic argument, and then they without fail fall in love again. However, this story was refreshingly different. The relationship between Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and Rick (Humphrey Bogart) while they were in Paris was beautifully simple, and at the same time it was extremely complicated due to the fact that each one was keeping their past secret from the other, choosing to live only in the present. For this reason, it was easy to see that the romance was doomed from the beginning. Things get even more tangled up when Ilsa disappears, only leaving a note that she can never see him again. Years later, they fortune- or misfortune- brings them together in Casablanca, Ilsa now with her husband, Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid).

At a glance, “Rick is completely neutral about everything”, as one of his friends put it, but I was intrigued to catch the little things that made it clear that this was not the case. In the past, Rick had been fighting for the underdogs in wars, and in fits of anger he’d rip up a German check or allow the band to play the French National Anthem, drowning out the songs of the Nazi’s. He “sticks his neck out for no one”, and desperately wants to forget about his opinions and not take any risks. His ideas are put to the test when Ilsa’s husband reveals that he is on he Nazi’s most wanted list (he is part of the Free French Forces, who are fighting to liberate France from the Germans) and needs out of Casablanca, and soon. Only Rick has the exit visas that can help him.

I was completely wrapped up in the story, hanging on to every word and rewinding if I missed the tiniest sentence. In the end, I was excited to see Rick finally swayed by his true anti-Nazi opinions and his feelings for Ilsa. It would have been easier for him to do nothing, but ultimately, conviction conquers self-interest, which was a main theme in Casablanca. For example, Rick just wanted to remain neutral and have a good life running his cafe, Captain Renault didn’t care about right and wrong and had no loyalties except to whichever side was winning, but both of them were changed when Ilsa and Lazlo came into the picture, perfect examples of determination.

By the time the music swelled and the retro black- and- white “The End” slide appeared on the screen, I had completely changed my mind about the movie, and all classics in general. Some things have changed (for example, we make movies in color now...) but a lot hasn’t. Granted, World War II is long over, but a good love story is a good love story, and the internal conflicts presented were true and still exist. That’s the beauty of classics, they never become outdated.


Works Cited
"Casablanca (1942) - Full Cast and Crew." The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). IMDb.com Inc, 1990. Web. 24 Sept. 2011. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034583/fullcredits>.

Casablanca. Dir. Michael Curtiz. Prod. Hal B. Wallis. Perf. Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid. Warner Bros., 1942

SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Casablanca.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2004. Web. 23 Sept. 2011.



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