Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca – as of the time this article was written – is 75 years old. It is considered by film historians, film critics and general film fans as one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, film of all time. What makes a film like Casablanca age like the fine wine served in Rick’s Café? Is it its ensemble cast of memorable characters: Renault, Ferrari, Ugarte, Sascha and Sam, all interacting in such a sprawling and unique location such as the aforementioned Rick’s Café? Perhaps! Is it its suspenseful story of refugees trying to find their way to America while dodging the Nazis? That’s a great argument as well. But what I believe makes Casablanca stand out amongst the crowded lists of “The Greatest Movies of All Time” is its masterful characterization of Rick Blaine, and his inner conflict throughout the film, and how his experiences with love drives his every decision.
Many of us who have experienced love, and then lost it, can relate to what Rick is going through. Being heartbroken is one of the most powerful emotions anyone can feel. The love of his life left him, and he can’t help but feel resentment and bitterness towards that person. It’s making yourself vulnerable to the person you love, and having them run away with it leaving you cold. Forcing you to close the door on said vulnerability, you decide to lock it away so no one could possibly hurt you that badly again. This is what shapes Rick as a character entirely. He’s so hesitant with helping anybody, because he doesn’t want to open himself up to being heartbroken once again. I think we can all relate to that in one way or another.
There’s one scene in Casablanca that in my opinion sums up the emotional core of the entire film. Soon after Ilsa and Victor arrive at Rick’s Café, Ilsa tells the piano player Sam to play, “As Time Goes By”. This was an important song in the relationship of Rick and Ilsa, so when Sam starts playing it, Rick naturally gets upset and tells Sam to stop playing. That’s when he first sees Ilsa again. The combination of the performances by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, the music swelling as they lock eyes, and the cinematography framing the two looking at each other says SO much about what the characters are going through, without saying anything at all. That is one of the most impressive beats of visual storytelling I’ve ever witnessed in film, and I can see why the film is revered as such a classic. Casablanca is purely the complicated relationship of Rick and Ilsa, and how powerfully it’s told. It’s complicated, yet relatable, and that’s what makes the film so timeless.
Jeremy is younger than he looks, and has passionately studied the art and craft of filmmaking for as long as he can remember. He is currently a freelance wedding videographer, and is also heavily involved in Competitive Fighting Games. IG: jeremyko95