In his didactic work 🇧🇷Story’the guru of creative film writing Robert McKee mentions more than once the importance of 🇧🇷Casablanca’ for understanding a good story, fragmenting its complex script into small blocks to analyze how Rick and Ilsa’s journey manages to connect with the public even today – coherently analyzing that a war novel disguised as political criticism , however far removed from the new generations, is capable of transporting us to a cosmos with a specific appearance, but an age-old essence. It is no surprise that the feature film directed by Michael Curtis in the early 1940s is still considered one of the best achievements in the entire history of the film industry, standing side by side with classics such as 🇧🇷The Godfather’ and 🇧🇷Citizen Kane’🇧🇷
At the time of its production and release, Curtis dived in or dared to leave the commonplace and move away from the propagandistic filmic onslaughts that aimed to create an optimistic panorama in the midst of the fiercest years of World War II – like walt disney who, with the brutal construction of his future empire, performed “good-neighborhood” animations that sought to further polarize a society driven by constant fear and insecurity. In 🇧🇷Casablanca’things take an unexpected turn when they emerge as sociopolitical criticism, even aiming at the debate, even if not so deep, of what was really happening in third world territories and that were excluded from the pages of the newspaper and from radio frequencies.
Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is the manager of a modest and picturesque cafe in Casablanca. From the first moments on the scene, the character shows himself with a reserved, introverted build, which has already gone through a few good times and carries with it the motto of “not putting your neck at risk for any man”. It is clear that such bitterness is not occasional and has recent origins, the consequences of which are seen in his fervent passion for drink, capable of killing his former self deluded by the false true love🇧🇷 However, this linearity that keeps him out of danger is challenged when Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) enter the establishment with far deadlier intentions than they appear.
And why is all of this impactful for Rick’s life? Simply because Rick and Ilsa have a story that is as moving as it is tragic. Rick was a leader of the anti-fascist resistance and met the seductive Norwegian expatriate Ilsa in Paris. After starting an affair, the rebel’s name enters the Gestapo’s list and he plans an escape with his lover away from the City of Lights, to a place where they can start over from scratch. They therefore agree to meet at the train station, but Ilsa never appears, sending a messenger to deliver a letter saying that she loves him, but that she will never be able to see him again. Since then, Rick has submitted to the appeasement of his rebellion and sees it all fall apart as feelings rekindle.
If we pay close attention to the protagonist’s personality, it is possible to deduce what will happen in each of the acts. However, do not think that the plot of Casablanca moves through narrative conventionalisms, as everything is orchestrated with an applaudable and moving subtlety, whose interpersonal connection (whether with the audience or between the characters) is its main driving force. Bogart and Bergman’s chemistry is undeniable, reaching highs and lows that show the irreversibility of a flame that never went out – Rick still loves her, and it shows most clearly when Ilsa begs him to get them out of bed. Casablanca: after all, Laszlo is a refugee, also leader of one of the rebel groups, and who is about to be captured by the enemy.
The figure of the antagonist is dubious and can be seen both for the scenic superficiality and for the microcosmic intimacy architected by Curtis and the incredible trio of screenwriters formed by Julius and Philip Epstein and Howard Koch🇧🇷 As they introduce Major Heinrich Strasser (Conrad Veidt) to make the main plot more interesting and even play with the idea of cat-and-mouse between resistance and repression, Rick and Ilsa themselves become enemies not to each other, but to themselves: while Ilsa once again declares her love for the former lover and says that what he feels for Viktor is nothing more than a mere help, he cannot believe the story, and belittles her to protect himself and not get involved with someone who almost cost him his life. Even with the unbridled denials, the atmospheric change is supported by the dialogues that occur at different times, including in a specific scene.
The whole premise is concentrated in the scene at the Bazaar, in which Rick is determined to get Ilsa back: both walk around street vendors, entering the black market in search of forged passports that will guarantee the couple’s departure from Casablanca. Guilt, regret and obligation move them through the streets, until secrets are revealed – and the woman herself admits the irreconcilable regret of starting the affair. After all, since Paris, Laszlo was her husband – and it is precisely this block of words that marks the main climax, showing how Rick, despite loving her and wanting her with all his might, cannot have her for much greater reasons. than he judged and judges.
The filmic perfection with which Curtis conducts his work is impeccable: of course, he doesn’t dare as much as he could with the direction, but he makes a point of mixing his photographic skill with balanced expressionist and melodramatic aesthetics, without giving in to exaggeration. It is no wonder that, in most of the sequences set in the bar, the faces of the characters are dimly lit: each one of them, whether in the pluralism of the countless other refugees who seek to hide from the Nazi-fascist commandos, or in the face of the protagonists in question, hides complicated secrets that cannot be revealed under any circumstances. For some, the rhythm of the montage and the imagery architecture can seem monotonous; however, they are extremely important to ratify the dramatic and even historical weight of the feature.
‘Casablanca’ finds its end in one of the most classic scenes in Cinema: the farewell of Rick and Ilsa, in which the woman says goodbye to the only man she loved by boarding a plane towards freedom. She disappears into the mist, and such a moment is so symbolic of an infinite variety of subjects that it’s hard not to be moved. And, to paraphrase McKee, this dramatic journey is critical and fundamental to understanding not only an important part of our history, but also to finding ourselves.