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A Stylistic Analysis of Casablanca

A Stylistic Analysis of Casablanca

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Published by Jon Stewart

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Published by: Jon Stewart on May 09, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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A Stylistic Analysis of CasablancaCasablanca is a film that is heavily driven by its characters. It is, at first glance, apowerful love story; to merely call it a love story, however, would be to ignore thelarger ramifications of the actions of its characters. Rick especially is placed in themiddle of not one, but two conflicts: a complicated love triangle, and a global battlebetween the Axis and Allied powers. As we see, Rick cannot take part in the latterwithout first overcoming his issues with the former. Through various stylisticelements, Casablanca draws parallels between Rick’s personal struggles withneutrality and the necessity to take action in the larger context of World War II.The setting of Casablanca plays a key role in the dichotomy between Rick’s personallife and a larger societal issue. A town ripe with refugees, Casablanca provides theperfect backdrop for the struggle of freedom against the newly-empowered Naziregime. Rick’s Caf 
Americain similarly serves as a microcosm for the events in theworld. The use of “Americain” in the title of Rick’s caf 
is significant, in that theAmericain caf 
can provide refuge and salvation much in the same way Americacould for the conquered French. Like America, however, Rick must first break hisneutrality. The fact that the action takes place in December of 1941, the same monthin which the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor took place, provides a further parallelbetween Rick’s and America’s struggles with neutrality.It is this struggle which drives Rick’s transformation and thus the film as a whole.Rick is presented as a very mysterious character at the beginning of the film. We hearhis name and some minor details about the man before we actually see him, lendingan aura of isolation to his character; he doesn’t, for example, ever drink with any of the customers at his bar. At this point in the film, the range and depth of knowledgeare quite narrow and shallow, respectively. We’re not quite sure why Rick is the wayhe is, but he states several times that he “doesn’t stick his neck out for nobody!”Slowly but surely, however, the viewer begins to see that perhaps there is more toRick than meets the eye. While he may claim to not risk his well being for others, wecan identify a bit of a leaning to one side or the other. He still offers papers of transitto refugees, albeit at a price, and at one point prohibits a man from a Deutsch bank from entering his bar. Rick, however, is almost embarrassed of these actions, refusingto acknowledge Louis’ claim that deep down, he is a “sentimentalist.” Perhaps mostsignificant is the fact that Rick had fought twice, both times on the losing side, againstthe Nazis. A sense is conveyed to the viewer that Rick was not always as he is now,and that something had happened to him to change his entire outlook on life. If thereis to be any hope for both Rick as a person as well as Laslo’s struggle against theNazis, his character must change back to what he once was.Ilsa’s entrance, then, acts as the catalyst for Rick’s eventual breaking away from thatimpartiality, much as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor would end America’sstance of neutrality. The role of music in Ilsa’s entrance ought not to be ignored. Asshe tells Sam to “play it,” an extremely long take of a close up on her face invites theaudience to ponder the significance of the song. Representing a time that Rick wisheshe could forget, he is rightfully distraught upon hearing it and even more shocked tosee Ilsa.This leads to the first step in Rick overcoming his neutrality. Alone with Sam in hisbar after hours, Rick tells Sam to “play it!” The fact that this line of dialogue isrepeated is rather significant. When Ilsa says it, we get the sense that she has come toterms with the results of her relationship with Rick. She may not be proud of what shehad done, but she can at least be reminded of it. Now Rick, too, begins to come to

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