An endlessly quotable love triangle drama set in the context of WWII politics, this is truly one of the greatest films of the Classical Hollywood era with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in their most iconic roles.
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt
Plot: A cynical expatriate American cafe owner struggles to decide whether or not to help his former lover and her fugitive husband escape the Nazis in French Morocco.
Awards: Won 3 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay; Nom. for 5 Oscars – Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score
Distributor: Warner Bros
Subject Matter: Moderate – Politics vs. Romance; WWII
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
I’ve seen Casablanca so many times that it’s impossible not to know some of the dialogue by heart, which also happens to be some of the most quotable from the Classical Hollywood era.
In arguably their most iconic roles, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman play Rick and Ilsa, two ex-lovers who unexpectedly cross paths in the former’s café in Morocco as WWII rages on nearby in Europe.
Ilsa’s partner, Victor, is an influential leader of an underground resistance movement, and hence a wanted man by the Nazis. As the love triangle plays out amid WWII politics, something must give as romantic and political tensions are stretched.
Directed by the reliable studio director Michael Curtiz, Casablanca’s strength is in its wonderfully realised characters. Rick is as cynical a man as they come, though his stone-cold sarcasm hides an emotional vulnerability rekindled by the appearance of Ilsa.
“We’ll always have Paris.”
Ilsa, on the other hand, radiates with an earnest glow on her face (courtesy of elegant close-ups throughout the film), even as Rick guilt-trips her for halting their short-lived romance some years before.
Accompanied by stirring music, notably its recurrent use of the jazz classic ‘As Time Goes By’, Casablanca’s most triumphant moment comes in a scene when the patrons in Rick’s café combine with a patriotic belting of the French national anthem in order to drown out the voices of a group of way-too-merry German officials.
When the film was released in America, no one knew how—or if—the war would end. As such, one could read into Casablanca’s narrative as an indicator of how American individualism might give way to the prospect of a transatlantic friendship as the battle of ideologies becomes violently contested.