Just as Warner Bros. never expected Casablanca to be more than another cookie-cutter, a-list, movie of the 1920s-1950s era, I did not expect it to be more than a typical, uninspiring love story. I knew very little about the film, besides that it was a classic, and had very low expectations. I have always assumed that I would dislike it because I find old, black-and-white movies difficult to relate to and boring. Then I thought about it and realize that I have never actually tried to watch a classic, black-and-white picture before this class. Now, I feel sad that I waited so long to watch Casablanca.
As our textbook suggested, I put my expectations aside. It allowed me to experience a deeply inspiring and universally relate-able film classic. It was much more than a love story.
I found that there were several major themes in Casablanca. One of them was sacrifice. In the beginning of the film, Rick does not care about helping anyone else. His only concern is himself and his bar. This cold, unconcerned image of him changes when Ilsa walks into his place. Flashbacks show his feels for her and for Sam, and in the end he sacrifices those feelings. He decides letting her leave with Laszlo for the good of the anti-Nazi movement. Rick even lies about the nature of his and Ilsa’s relationship to Laszlo. As heartbreaking as his sacrifice is, it still results in a happy ending in a way because it effects a bigger cause.
One of the other themes is the difficulty of neutrality. Rick refuses to drink with his customers because their business always turns to politics. Yet, he has a drink with Ilsa and Laszlo. My favorite example of Rick’s true character is when he helps the Bulgarian couple. The newly married bride is considering allowing herself to be sexually exploited in exchange for travel documents. Rick quietly helps her husband win at roulette so that he can pay for travel instead. The hidden emotion from everyone involved makes the situation more profound. It’s the first time that we see Rick make a political move by helping someone else.
Another prominent theme is one of love, of course. However, it is not the fairy tale love that I expected. It is selfless and deep. In Paris, Ilsa breaks Rick’s heart when her husband comes back because she knows that if he discovered the truth, he would stay behind with her and be captured. Laszlo even asks Rick to take Ilsa away from Casablanca and leave him behind. After taking her with him throughout Europe, he is willing to put her safety above his own. In the end, Rick also sends Ilsa away because he loves her so much and knows that she would regret staying.
These themes come together to make up one of my new favorite movies. They combine in a way to create a deep, inspiring, emotional movie that will continue to stand the test of time.