The movie Casablanca tells the story of Rick Blaine, a bar owner in Casablanca. His heart breaks when Ilsa, his sweetheart, fails to join him in his escape from Paris before the Nazis invaded. Rick’s relationship fall-out begins the movie journey depicted in an authentic World War II time period. It was on a stormy night that Rick received a letter from Ilsa telling him that she wouldn’t be coming with him to Casablanca. Realizing he has been dumped, he sadly hops onto the train and rides off to Casablanca by himself.
According to Jim Piper, “Films aren’t just about people; they are also about the relationships people make…Often, in fact, a relationship is the movie” (159). It is Rick’s relationships that make this movie. Rick’s character traits are those of someone whose heart is broken. He is bitter and acts as though he doesn’t care about those around him. In spite of this, he still shows some emotions towards others at times. The relationship between Rick and Ilsa comes back to Rick when he sees Victor and Ilsa in his bar in Casablanca.
This is a cruel memory for Rick that he will never get over. As for Ilsa, she could almost get over it, but her memories of time spent with Rick still linger. When Rick learns the truth about why Ilsa left him, his bitterness dissolves and the love in rekindled. At the airport, during the final scene, Rick shows the depth of his love for Ilsa by giving her and Victor a pair of exit visas, telling her to get on the plane and head for America. He says “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday you’ll regret it if you don’t get on that plane. A tearful Ilsa gets on the plane with Victor and flies away. Thus, the relationship between Rick and Ilsa is the movie from beginning to end “Most long-term film journeys are symbolic…We attach certain hopes to the journey…The journey will change our lives.. the journey really is a quest” (178). In a big way, this film is about the journey of what real love is supposed to be like. Many people would do the opposite of what Rick and Ilsa did. If Ilsa had her way, she would remain in Casablanca with Rick to try to rekindle the relationship they had.
Rick, however, wanted Ilsa to go and be with her husband. Rick’s journey was truly one of love. His final act of love for Ilsa involved giving up the relationship he wanted the most because of the love he had for her. Rick must choose between his love for a woman and helping her and her husband escape Casablanca. He makes the right choice. Filmed during World War II, Casablanca differs from most movies released during this time period. Most films depicted the war in some way. The setting for Casablance focuses on the French refugees on their way to the United States.
Every element fits the time period. “Period films try to capture the times – how people live, what they value, what they are willing to die for, and so on” (171). The moviemakers try to capture and depict this World War II era with accuracy. This is done successfully with the period cars, clothes, hairstyles and scenery. The men wear suits with bow ties and cuff links. Officers wear appropriate uniforms with medals and appropriate patches adorning them. Their hair is kept in place with gel, parted at the side and combed back.
Both the men and women wear period hats. The women’s clothing is elegant and conservative, adorned by broaches. Their pin-curled hair is wavy and swept up. The cities look so convincingly real that the viewer feels he is actually there. The Paris flashbacks add to the era depiction. The viewer sees a hurried travel contrast as well as a leisurely voyage. Rick and Ilsa ride through Paris by car as well as a boat ride down the Seine. Even the expressions and dialog are true to the era such as “You like war. I like women,” and “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid. Most telling of the story is the expression “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine. ” The French dialogue between Yvonne and the French officer reminds the viewer this is wartime. The well-designed sets of the city make the viewer think they are shot on location. Several times, the camera looks through a wall from the cafe area into Rick’s office. The lighting work on these sets is done to mimic the exact lighting of the outside environment and the inside of the buildings, including shadows and dimmer lights.
The outside spotlight shines from a tall tower. It lights up the entire city of Casablanca. It is constantly present at Rick’s place, shining in circular motion at his door. One feels like the entire city is being watched. It is evident that Rick feels Ilsa is also being watched. Even their relationship is watched and must end. Ilsa must escape. Inside, Casablanca shows many techniques of film noir, especially with the use of shadows and lighting. There is much use of low-key lighting. In Rick’s cafe there are a lot of dim lamps but the figures in the room cast sharp shadows.
In one scene, where Rick gets drunk and feels kind of down, he sits alone in almost total darkness. In another scene there is only a lamp in the room. It sits on a table, which is lower than everyone in the room. This casts high, strange shadows on their faces. There is also a shot at one point, which only shows Rick’s shadow on the wall. All these things work together to create a realistic depiction of this era. When the spotlight catches Ilsa in the doorway of Rick’s place, she looks like an angel. This lighting allows the viewer to see Ilsa like Rick does.
This adds to the viewing romance as the viewer asks, “Is the presentation of era authentic, or has it been fudged…to seem more appealing or romantic…? ” (172). The answer is a wonderful balance of both! This film is a real wartime romance and a true classic that I would like to share with my family and friends. It is great example of how relationships become the movie. For Rick, his love for Ilsa becomes his journey. Capturing the elements of this time period of World War II, the viewer feels as if he has gone back in time to watch Rick demonstrate what real love is supposed to be like.
After Renault suggests he and Rick leave Casablanca and join the free French at Brazzaville, Rick responds. This ending line “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship” keeps playing in my memory, keeping me wondering where Rick’s relationships and journey will take him now. A sequel would be so appropriate! Works Cited Curtiz, Michael. Casablanca. Videorecording. Warner Home Video 2000. (1942). Piper, Jim. Get The Picture? The Movie Lover’s Guide to Watching Films. 2nd ed. New York, New York: Allworth, 2008.