Lizzi Von DooLittle (vondoolittle) wrote,
Lizzi Von DooLittle

  • Mood:

Harumph. You win one you lose one.

It's 400 words short of the maximum. It's crap and rushed and a week late. I started it at 6am after a stupid phonecall to Mike that I shouldn't have made and I bet I've pissed him off:(((

So here it is (without pictures as I can't be arsed to link them in).

I expect I might scrape a C.

Genre and Narrative in Casablanca : My crap essay

The overall genre of Casablanca (dir Michael Curtiz, 1942) is drama/romance, the film itself borrows heavily from film noir as a style displaying many elements that were common in this film-making period.

'Film Noir' was a term created in the 1940s to describe films made by immigrant directors into Hollywood who were coming from Germany and other areas in central europe, and bringing influences from german expressionistic films in their home countries. They carried with them the somewhat sobering memories of WWII and were making films which exposed the seedy underbelly of life - crime and corruption, cynical villains and heroes who were loners that felt unable to escape the past and were insecure about their future.

In general, the leading characters were full of dry wit and bitterness, prone to moodiness and were either looking for morality or had given up on it altogether. Rick (Humphrey Bogart) in Casablanca is such a character - unlucky in love and running a bar in a place where exit visas have to be obtained through fraud and even the officials are corrupt. Indeed, Humphrey Bogart is widely associated with the film noir period of Hollywood movies so it is not surprising to see him cast in his role here.

Curtiz's wartime setting topical to real life events at the time, is a common feature of film noir, and the film was released in 1942 though the setting was Dec 1941 Casablanca in French Ruled Morocco; a waiting-place before transit to Lisbon in neutral Portugal for a safe passage to America. Casablanca represented hopes for a better future - if you could get it, but at a price.

A key scene in Casablanca where elements of noir are readily identifiable is the first discussion about the imminent arrival of Victor Lazlo in Rick's office with Louis Renault. The main focus of the scene is Louis (Claude Raines) telling Rick (Humphrey Bogart) that Lazlo and Ilse are due to arrive, and sets up an introduction of the characters who are going to be the cause of change in the film and also in Casablanca itself. The arrival of these two are a catalyst in the futures of all those in the film, especially Rick.

Victor Lazlo, the noir 'outlaw' figure, has 'succeeded in impressing half the world', and this scene serves to explain his history of dramatic escape from a concentration camp and his escape across Europe to Casablanca thus explaining why the Germans are after him.

In dialogue terms, film noir is evident here in that Rick and Louis place bets with each other as to whether or not Lazlo will escape. Lady Luck and police corruption displayed in gambling are also evidence of film noir style.

Rick is cast as being outside the law - but not entirely an outlaw - he is, however, an alienated man – the typical noir hero. Ricks internal conflict with love over virtue is another element of film noir - he must 'do the right thing' by helping Victor Lazlo escape and continue his work as resistance leader against the Nazis. Lazlo is, however, the true outlaw and his wife, Ilse (Ingrid Bergman), is the woman that drives him - another common element in film noir. She is indeed a femme fatale, but not the vicious sort. These basic types of characters are common in film noir, but in Casablanca are not as 'black and white' as in many other films of the time. There is a definate love triangle here which has to be resolved by a moral decision from Rick as the film noir hero character.

Another, and rather obvious, key element of film noir is the usage of lighting, and Curtiz has an easily identifiable use of shadows in Casablanca; for example Rick at the safe in the scene discussed above casting a huge shadow of himself on the wall behind him as it is opened and closed. There is also bar lighting/shadow from venetian blinds in both Rick's and Lazlo's apartments and half light/soft shadow on faces in close up on the expressions and reactions of Ilse in particular.

Further examples of film noir as a style within Casablanca can be found with key elements such as narration; the setting up at the start of the film showing refugee routes and explaining the topical situation through maps and such to put the storyline in context politically. Other key elements include night photography - the lighting of the watchtower as the plane to Lisbon flies overhead during Rick's first outside location meeting with Henri and the view from the venetian blind-covered window as Lazlo spots the watchman in the street below before leaving for the underground meeting later in the film.

The most notable film noir element in Casablanca is the flashback scene as Rick remembers his romance with Ilse in Paris; it is set up as a montage of his memories - of how much they were in love, the rain running the words away on her final letter - and illustrates how he has become bitter in his relationships with women as a result.

The overlying themes of the film fall easily into film noir categorisation; the near-impossibility of remaining neutral or amoral shown with Louis and Rick; the seemingly inescapable past of Rick and Ilse's prior relationship; and the power of 'Lady Luck' with gambling/fate being the only possible means of escaping such a difficult situation. Every character is in conflict with either themselves or each other - Rick with himself, or with Lazlo and Ilse who are also at one point in conflict with each other, and the German/French conflict - whether to comply with the 'gestapo spank' or attempt to remain a free man under threat of being sent to a concentration camp.

It must be remembered, however, that film noir is not generally regarded as a genre. It is a style - an expression of mood, point of view and general tone of the film itself. This said, Casablanca falls very well into this category with regards to all elements within and the context of the film in general.

I feel sick. Got to be at the doctors at 8:40 and I don't know if I ought to go for a lie down or not. I've texted Mike apologising but I feel like crap for having rung him in such a stupid 'cant do it wont do it' tizzy at 5am:(((

Oh fucking hormones - not a good time of the month. Need a fucking fag right now.

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