Kate Thoreson Eunice Johnston English 167 5 October 2010 The Relationship Between Laszlo, Strasser, and Renault

Casablanca is a cherished part of American culture and history that represented the feelings of the year 1942. The story took place in unoccupied French-governed Morocco, where, at the center of the conflict, Victor Laszlo and Ilsa Lund were trying to obtain letters of transit to go to America. However, the person who held the letters of transit, Rick Blaine, used to be Ilse¶s lover, which created complications and a central conflict within Rick. In the end, Rick decided to give Victor and Ilsa the letters of transit, reasoning that his own love for Ilsa was less important than Victor¶s work in trying to end the Nazi regime. He left for Brazzaville with Louis Renault, and the film ended. All of the characters were key to making this story work as well as it did. The film was supposed to help people develop a support for America¶s involvement in World War II. However, the relationship between three of the characters was important enough to merit special recognition. The interactions between Victor Laszlo, Louis Renault, and Major Strasser explained much of the background of the story.

First, Victor¶s height and general appearance add to the audience¶s perception of him, especially in light of the other characters. In the still located on the first page, Victor is obviously the central focus. This frame was in the film after Louis walked up to the table that Victor and Ilse were sitting at. Victor stood up in this still. In the picture, he is clearly much taller than Louis, and he is not even fully upright yet. It is likely that this indicated that Victor¶s unfaltering support of the resistance, or the resistance itself, was a morally ³taller´ cause than Louis¶s passive agreement with the Nazi regime. This indirectly suggested that it was better to vehemently support the Nazis than it was to simply accept what they were doing, especially in light of the clip located above. Major Strasser is facing Victor in what appears to be another symbolic conflict of height. Victor is literally taller than Strasser by a hair. He was morally superior to Strasser, and he was going to win²both in the film, and in the eyes of the audience. It is also interesting to note that Victor looks very gentlemanly and courteous, dressed in light colors with a seemingly pleasant expression on his face. Louis, however, looks irritated in the first picture, and there are dark parts of his clothing that seem to mar his light-colored suit, suggesting that he has done bad things that taint his good character. Even the villains¶ hair differs from Victor¶s; Victor has very appealing hair for the time period, and Louis¶s hair is dark and slicked back²just like Major Strasser¶s. Louis and

Strasser also have facial hair, which is a good indicator that they are villains, at least compared to Victor. All of this evidence points to the idea that an audience watching Casablanca during World War II would have sided with Victor and seen him as a personification of the resistance of Nazi Germany, and that they were likely repulsed by Strasser for the duration of the film and by Louis for much of it. In addition, Victor¶s wartorn, but still attractive, appearance added to the idea that the audience should have supported him versus the other men. In the still located to the right, Victor¶s scar is clearly visible. In the film, this scar was often obscured by blurred lighting that was commonly bestowed upon characters that the audience was supposed to sympathize with. However, it shows particularly well here, indicating that the audience was supposed to see what the Nazis had done to him. This makes sense because in this part of the film, Victor refused to give the names of his comrades to the Nazis, giving the reasoning that if he didn¶t give them the names in a concentration camp, he was not going to do it then. In addition, the streak of conspicuosly white hair in Victor¶s otherwise darker coiffure indicates that he had been under stress in the concentration camp and continued to be under a lot of stress as the events of the war continued. The wrinkles on his forehead can

be spotted easily, which is another indicator that he had been stressed. These cues are particularly interesting when seen in light of the fact that at the moment in the film when the still was taken, Victor was in the police station being questioned by Nazis²he was more at risk in that scene than he was in any other part of the entire film. Through all of these visual indicators that Victor had been through a lot, he is still wearing his light-colored suit and he is still clearly on the side of the resistance. This imagery adds to the idea that he was a symbol of the resistance, and that the audience was always supposed to sympathize with him. This worked because while the somewhat low resolution of the lighting allowed him to look more attractive, certain flaws were exaggerated. The flaws that were conspicuous are not usually self-inflicted in real life; they serve as battle scars. In fact, the flaws in question were exactly the ones that would indicate that the audience was supposed to feel sorry for him²a scar, grey hairs, and wrinkles. In contrast to this depiction, the pictures of Louis and Strasser on the right and the left of this page, respectively, show an arrogant sort of repose. Louis has a relaxed and cocky facial expression, with his eyes shut and his arm resting on the table, as he explains to Victor that they haven¶t decided how Ugarte died. He is also wearing a much darker suit than usual, indicating that he is the most evil that he will ever be in the film, and his dark, slicked back hair and facial hair are quite prominent. The image of Strasser shows a similarly cocky expression, although his eyes remain open as he

attempts to scare Victor into submission. Like Louis, he is wearing a much darker uniform than usual, and his facial hair and combover are prominent. This proves that the audience did not even need to listen to what the characters were saying to see that Victor was clearly the protagonist and Strasser and Louis were clearly the antagonists in that scene. While Casablanca was a popular film because the love story is timeless, it was also a popular film at the time because it allowed people to support the resistence to Nazi Germany and to support the war on the European front. The mise-en-scene as it related to Victor Laszlo, Major Strasser, and Louis Renault is important because Victor Laszlo¶s conflict with Strasser and Louis was at the very heart of the intention of the film. While Rick Blaine certainly controlled what happened and developed over the course of the film and Ilsa Lund was at the center of the romantic conflict, it was Victor Laszlo who represented what the filmmakers actually wanted the audience to support. The resistence was the moral idea that the audience probably already sympathized with to an extent, and Victor Laszlo¶s pure portrayal of it was everything that the audience needed to connect with the idea of ending the Nazi regime, especially since the Nazis as portrayed in the film by Louis Renault and particularly Major Strasser were absolutely despicable and people who were living in America prior to the war did not know that the Nazis supported an evil cause from personal experience. In a sense, the way that the filmmakers chose to make Victor Laszlo, Major Strasser, and Louis Renault appear was as important to the audience¶s perception of the war as the actual content of the film was. Victor Laszlo was more than just a player in the plot; he also symbolized an idea that was important to the success of the war on a domestic front, just as Strasser and Louis symbolized what that idea was fighting against.

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