1943: Casablanca

(Originally published January 17, 2013)

I recently learned from a friend that colleges offer whole classes devoted to this film, so please excuse and enjoy my humble layman’s interpretation.  First of all, the French accent took considerable adjustment to understand.  Thank goodness for subtitles.  British accents are far easier on my ears.

This film portrays one of the more exotic locales in recent Best Picture winners and I think the setting is one reason for its outstanding allure.  Casablanca is a city in Morocco, a purgatory where European expatriates are doomed to linger in limbo while they wait for exit visas to Lisbon and then America. The film’s protagonist, an American expat named Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), runs an upscale restaurant and gambling establishment which attracts all sorts of international characters.  Rick has made a life for himself, content to stay in Casablanca and worry only about his interests.  Until the day that important letters of transit go missing from a pair of murdered couriers and subsequently wind up in his diner.  Shortly thereafter, Rick’s long-lost former love (Ingrid Bergman) from his years in Paris also winds up at one of his tables.  With another man.

Rick and Ilsa reconnect, awkwardly and distantly at first, but soon the memories resurface and unknown details emerge about their former lives.   The man with whom she travels is fighting for the Czech Resistance and those letters of transit suddenly become the center of blackmail, power plays, and relationships.  This film illustrates surprising sacrifices.  Casablanca is somewhat neutral territory during World War II, but there are still sides and tensions are high between American, British, and French citizens and soldiers.  These sacrifices cross sides, for the betterment of humanity, love, and war.  And maybe also because guns are involved… 🙂

Two good men in love with the same woman is a powerful thing.  Although annoying to the viewer who would like a black and white ending, sentimental and wrapped up nicely, the ending is satisfying and right. Only one of the men will wind up with the woman, but the other will have the satisfaction of knowing he stepped out of the way to keep her safe.

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