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"Casablanca": An Historical Movie Essay

824 words - 3 pages

In "Casablanca", the remarkable themes of unhappy love and self-sacrifice set this romantic melodrama apart from most in its genre. These themes are best expressed in the interactions of the three main characters: Victor Laszlo, a heroic political leader; Ilsa Lund, an enigmatic femme fatale; and Richard (Rick) Blaine, a seemingly morally ambiguous1 night club owner. An unusual love triangle forms with the two men's mutual love for the intermediary woman. Unlike the romantic triangle which includes the betrayed husband and the victorious lover, this situation results in unhappiness and loss for all involved. All three are willing to sacrifice for this love, regardless of the suffering that results from its pursuit.Humphrey Bogart plays Rick Blaine, the owner of an upscale cafe/bar/gambling den2 in the Moroccan city of Casablanca which attracts a mixed clientele of Vichy3 French and Nazi officials, refugees and thieves. Rick is a bitter and cynical man, but still displays a clear dislike for the fascist part of his clientele.A petty crook, Guillermo Ugarte (Peter Lorre), arrives in Rick's club with "letters of transit" he has obtained by killing some German couriers. The papers are signed by a French general, and allow the bearer to travel at will around a very controlled by Nazis Europe, including to neutral Lisbon, Portugal, and from there to the United States. These papers are almost priceless to any of the continual stream of refugees who end up stuck in Casablanca. Ugarte plans to make his fortune by selling them to the highest bidder, who is due to arrive at the club later that night. However, before the exchange can take place, he is killed trying to evade the local police, under the command of Rick's close friend Captain Renault (Claude Rains). As a corrupt Vichy official, Renault accommodates the Nazis, but remains undecided about their influence in Casablanca. Neither Renault nor the Nazis know about where the letters were, Ugarte had left the letters with Rick for safekeeping, because "...somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust."4At this point, the reason for Rick's bitterness re-enters his life. His ex-lover, Ilsa Lund (Bergman) arrives with her husband, Victor Laszlo (Henreid), to purchase the letters. Laszlo is a famous Resistance leader from Czechoslovakia with a huge price on his head, and they must have the letters to escape. At the time Ilsa first met and fell in love with Rick in Paris, she believed her husband had been killed by...

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