I was looking over the choices I had left for the year's blind spot, thinking over what film to watch for the month. Seeing that I've been running through most of the "light" films on the list, I opted to dive in what I thought was a very dramatic, heart-wrenching film. When people clamor praises over Casablanca, it can't be helped that there will be some stigma attached to it. I was a bit intimidated with it at first because of the high praises, and if it doesn't deliver the way I've imagined it to be. Needless to say, the film was very worthy of its praise - and I've already watched it twice in a span of a week! The film was timeless, and it still breaks my heart when I think of Rick and Ilsa.
Set in the backdrop of World War II, Casablanca became a place for refugees who are awaiting for their visas in hopes of starting their lives in America. The center of the action was in Rick's cafe, where Rick Blane, an American expat resided and ran his business. He was also a very well known man in Casablanca, partly because of his reputation and connections. During a casual chat with Captain Renault, it was mentioned that a prominent movement leader, Victor Lazlo, is on his way to Casablanca, in hopes of securing a visa for him and his lady. That lady turned out to be Ilsa Lund, Rick's former lover, who had left him in Paris.
The plot was very pieced together: the flow of events was easy to follow, and the necessities of the war does not insist itself to the film. The film was well written, giving the characters strong and distinctive personalities that allow them to stand on their own. Despite sounding like a very dramatic film, and all emotions eventually running high, I loved how the writers interjected comic relief in a way that it doesn't soil the atmosphere of the film, but rather compliments it. This was why characters like Carl, Sam and Sascha, and to some extent, Captain Renault himself had a distinct presence in the film. Another factor that made the film endearing was the set. I actually don't really notice much of the scenery when it comes to films, but I thought that it really added some charm.
I like the love triangle here. Usually movies and television shows utilize the triangle to use as a movement for the obvious couple to end up together. So in that case, you're always rooting for the lead guy, and pity the second guy. Not here. I don't know about you, but in terms of whom Ilsa will choose or stay with, I wouldn't mind whomever she chose. For one, both Rick and Victor are strong characters, who are in a sense alike in some ways. Both treat her very well and love her dearly, so it was impossible to choose a side because both men are quality men, and you'll know that she'll be loved and be happy with whomever she chose. Plus, you don't pity the man she doesn't choose. Instead, you develop a deep sense of respect for either one, as what they have with Ilsa is not shallow, but of understanding and trust.
I love how the film ended. Yes, it broke my heart into a million pieces (and thinking about it still makes me want to weep) but it was satisfying and in more ways than one, it made sense. Even if it ended differently, it would still make some sense, but I don't know, this one was just beautiful.
The lead actors were all excellent and gave depth to their characters and performances. Humphrey Bogart was simply heartbreaking as Rick. I love how his character was written, and how he portrayed the anguish of a man who has just met his lover again. He gave a charismatic performance that it was really hard not to fall in love with his character. Ingrid Berman was absolutely gorgeous and electrifying as Ilsa. Her portrayal was flawless, and she showed a depth of emotion that was fitting to her character. Paul Henreid might have played a secondary character in the love triangle, but he never felt like a second character to me. Victor Lazlo was such a patriot, and a man of principle but he's very understanding in terms of his wife's plight. In modern films, a character such as himself will be pitied because he will never get the girl's heart, but not here.
This was my first Humphrey Bogart and Paul Henreid film (and this one was amazing, I made a right choice), and a second Bergman for me, though she wasn't much of a standout in the first movie I saw her (not performance-wise, her role relegated her to a minor character, so she wasn't much on screen, nor had many lines). I actually wonder why Henreid isn't as prominent as his fellow colleagues; I thought he was a good actor.
Final Word: Such a masterpiece worth seeing over and over again.
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid
Director: Michael Curtiz