The Classic Drama Casablanca: Critical Analysis
The classic drama, Casablanca, has been a favorite love story for decades by many. Casablanca was produced in 1942 and since then, the film has grown tremendously due to the classic storytelling and iconic acting, gaining numerous awards and nominations throughout the ages. The films popularity was due to the political climate during the time of its release and the dynamic characters which enabled the audience to relate. These characters change their outlook on life throughout the scenes as they grow into self-actualization. This historical fiction film includes pro war propaganda to influence viewers to be supportive of the war. Many people during this time period became neutral and did not want any association with politics. Others stood up for what they believed in and became activists for the cause.
Based on class discussions and previous response essays, I would classify Casablanca as a historical fiction film. While the film was not based on a real story, it is based during the time of World War 2, therefore the film can be categorized as historical fiction. During this time in history, Japan recently just bombarded Pearl Harbor killing thousands of innocent souls. This enraged America and drove them to the decision to no longer sit on the sidelines and isolate themselves from the war anymore. Since America joined the war, tension rose and the war began to pick up which led to Germany’s invasion in all of Europe. Amongst the production of the film there were countless historic issues up in the air. The events that took place in the past were inserted into this drama and interrupted Rick and Ilsa’s romantic love story. For example, Ilsa met Rick after she firmly believed her husband, Lazlo, was murdered after attempting to flee from a concentration camp. Ilsa grew madly in love with Rick in Paris in 1940 and the two started to converse about their future lives together. Germany’s invasion into Paris troubled Ilsa and Rick knew he had to leave the city before the Nazis would storm in. They decided to meet at the train station and leave together, but Ilsa was not to be seen. This part of history influenced their relationship due to the terror of the war. World War 2 influenced everyone’s lives in this time, especially Rick and Ilsa’s.
Since this film was staged during World War 2, war efforts began to rise and countries began to use pro war propaganda to inspire support from their citizens. They would use posters, music, and film to present war as a great endeavor. Historically, this film used pro war propaganda that became an international classic. The film presents complex and intricate political and social commentary regarding World War II. During the time the film was released, November of 1942, Pearl Harbor had already been bombarded by Japan and the United States had been involved in the war for almost a year. Before the film’s release, the majority of Americans believed that the country should remain neutral. However because of the films political interpretation, it is apparent that the film addresses the debate and presents a bias towards internationalism. Specific scenes throughout the film lead the audience to view the split sides of the argument, especially through the character of Rick. Rick is meant to model the standard american during this time. Through his change from the view of isolationism to internationalism, the audience is meant to follow his change and understand his new mind-set. This is a direct form of subtle pro-war propaganda. The film is able to allow the audience to emote an emotional response for both the characters and the political climate which is relevant to the time the film was released.
The film Casablanca introduces the Second World War and allows the audience to become aware of the dynamic between the historical event and the central plot of the movie. The central plot of the film follows the internal conflict of Rick, as he navigates the political climate during the Second World War. Both the romantic relationship with Ilsa and the extreme climate of political affairs has an effect on Rick and his interpretation of society. During the 1940’s, the United States had entered into WWII, which lead to much political debate regarding Isolationism and Internationalism. Isolationism is the idea that it is beneficial to purposefully ignore world affairs, and Internationalism is the concept becoming involved. Both concepts care internal conflict within Rick.
As the film progresses you are able to see him undergo self-actualization and he attempts to determine his own opinion regarding these two separate concepts. For the first act of the film, Rick is isolated from everyone and drinks alone suffering heartbreak. He refuses to drink with his customers which is a strict rule for himself. In Casablanca, Rick, the nightclub owner continually repeats the phrase, “I dont stick out my neck for no one”. Rick seems to want to let everyone know that he is on his own and will not go out of his way to help others. In the beginning of the film, it is made apparent that Rick believes in the concept of isolationism. Before his encounter with Ilsa, his views remain consistent with that of the common American during this specific time period.
Throughout the film, the love story propels the narrative and forwards the propaganda bias toward internationalism. By the end of Casablanca, Rick’s original mindset is transformed due to the historical events that take place and the romantic turmoil within the film. The relationship between Rick and Capt. Renault is also an intricate turning point for Rick’s political views. The beautiful friendship is based ironically on what Rick says in the beginning of the film, “I stick my neck out for nobody.” Their friendship embodies the sacrifice for one another due to the bond of friendship which contradicts Rick’s previous statement regarding his beliefs. This shows that Rick is no longer an isolationist. Capt. Renault has become the embodiment of Americans who had looked the other way from the Natzi’s as they commited their infamous atrocities. Capt. Renault is forced to acknowledge his compliance and in turn allows Rick to witness a new side to his once stubborn views.
The intricate love triangle between Ilsa, Rick and Laszlo, plays an important part in the development of the film. The romance between Rick and Ilsa is circumstantial and based on political necessity. It is apparent the Ilsa regardless of Rick, will remain fiercely loyal to her husband, Laszlo. Laszlo symbolizes the resistance against the Natzi power which makes him in iminate danger. Although Rick is heartbroken due to Ilsa’s loyalty for Laszlo, he decides to act heroically and shows his true self by sacrificing his love for Ilsa and his safety in Casablanca to allow Ilsa and Laszlo to escape. This allows the audience to witness the change in Rick and realize the full power of internationalism, both within the romance and in the political climate of this time.