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and white film that premiered in the United States during World War II in 1942. The film is a story of two star-crossed lovers that have fallen for each other at the worst of times. The main character, Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart, and the woman he loves, Ilsa Lund, have plans to run away together to southern France because the Nazis are closing in on Paris. Unbeknownst to Rick, Ilsa is actually already married to a man named Victor Laszlo, though she thinks that he has been killed. After falling for Rick, however, Ilsa finds out that Laszlo is still alive, so she leaves Rick to go back to him. In the end, Rick overcomes his broken heart and helps Ilsa and her husband escape Casablanca, Morocco at great personal risk. To do this, Rick attempts to double cross Captain Louis Renault by forcing him at gunpoint to aid in Victor and Ilsa’s escape, but Renault manages to tip off Major Strasser. As Strasser attempts to intervene in the escape, Rick shoots and kills him. The film provides another twist when surprisingly, Renault then covers for Rick so that he can escape from the law. The film ends with the two walking together off into the distance. The parting line, one of the most famous in all of film history, is spoken by Rick: “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” In the following paragraphs, I will analyze the visual elements that enhance the relationship between Ilsa and Rick, and the effects that it had on Rick as a person, as well as how he changes throughout the movie.
In the beginning, we are introduced to a world under siege due to World War II. We see that people from all over France, especially Paris, have come to Morocco, specifically Casablanca, to escape imprisoned Europe. Rick Blaine, the main character and expatriate of America, is known across Casablanca because he owns one of the most popular night clubs in town. Although he is introduced as a very popular person, we soon see that he isn’t a loyal friend at all. After choosing not to defend his friend, who is being taken away by police because he is believed to have in his possession stolen letters of transit, Rick keeps the letters for himself.
At this point, as an audience, we think that Rick simply is not a nice person. But we soon find out that his ability to love has been ruined by the one woman he imagined himself being with forever: Ilsa. Unexpectedly, she enters Rick’s cafe with her husband, who is looking for a way to escape to America and continue his work as a resistance leader. Almost instantly, Rick is transported back to a time before his move to Casablanca, in which he shared his life with the lovely Ilsa. Later in the evening, Rick is drowning his sorrows in alcohol as Sam plays the song “As Time Goes By”, which transports Rick back to a happier time.
Through flashbacks, we are shown Rick and Ilsa’s relationship and its progression from happiness to its heart-wrenching demise. At the beginning of Rick’s flashback, we see that the two are so in love and seemingly incredibly happy. As the flashback continues, however, we start
to see a change in Ilsa’s character. She becomes more nostalgic and apprehensive, and less impulsive. The two makes plans to escape from Paris together, but Ilsa has a strange request: instead of being picked up by Rick and going to the train station together, she asks to meet him there. We see that Rick is slightly confused, but he grants her request anyway. In the final scene, we watch Rick’s heart break as he realizes Ilsa has no plans of leaving Paris with him. In a handwritten note, Ilsa tells Rick that she cannot go with him to Paris, or ever speak with him again, with no explanation.
Throughout the movie, we find out that Ilsa left Rick because her husband, Victor Lazslo, who was believed to be dead, had actually escaped a concentration camp. Although Ilsa was in love with Rick, her love for her actual husband came flooding back when she found out he was alive and she had no choice but to rekindle their romance. Although Rick feels nothing but resentment toward both Victor and Ilsa, he is in a unique position that no one could have predicted: he has the letters of transit that Victor and Ilsa need to escape persecution and head to America. Perhaps as revenge, Rick does not give the letters of transit to them, and after being informed of this decision, Victor tells Rick to take Ilsa away from Casablanca, showing that he loves Ilsa so much that he’ll allow her to leave with another man for her own safety.
This sets up a huge change in Rick’s character. Instead of taking Victor’s advice and keeping Ilsa to himself, he decides to allow Ilsa to leave with Victor because he knows that she belongs with him. This is a selfless act that is almost a complete turn-around from his selfishness at the beginning of the movie. Even more uncharacteristically, Rick does exactly what he said he’d never do for anyone at the beginning of the movie: he sticks his neck out. After endangering himself to aid in the escape of Victor and Ilsa, Rick departs into the evening with Captain Louis Renault, who was also an aid in the escape, planning to leave the area before either of them are caught. In conclusion, Ilsa and Rick’s relationship affected the entire plot of the movie. From the beginning, we see that the failed relationship had turned Rick into a cynical man, nearly incapable of love. The director’s use of shadowing Rick’s face throughout the movie, the exception being the flashback that we see of Ilsa and Rick in Paris, allows for the audience to see how Rick’s personality has become darker due to his heartbreak and longing for Ilsa. As the movie progresses, we watch a love triangle between Rick, Ilsa and Victor struggle to solve itself. Finally, at the end of the movie, the audience watches as Rick’s character experiences a complete turn-around as he helps the woman he once loved escape with another man at the risk of his own personal safety. After watching the movie, I have only one thing to say about the great change that took place in Rick: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”