Do the problems of two people still amount to a hill of beans in our current culture? Nowadays, we look at Hollywood stars and place them on a pedestal above everything else. We see the Charlie Sheen meltdown placed in the same prominence in the media as the earthquake in Japan. We are fascinated with the personal problems of celebrities, sometimes even more so than the problems in the world around us. The Hollywood noise has become so loud that many people are not sure what to believe anymore.
In “Casablanca,” Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart, in a dominating performance) is forced to see what is really important in life when the girl he lost ends up being the love of the one man who may be able to lead a resistance against the Nazis. It is the epic love vs. duty tale that takes “Casablanca” from simple romance to something much more important to our culture: the idea of sacrifice. How much are you willing to give up to fight for the cause? “Casablanca” manages to give us an entertaining movie experience while giving us some food for thought.
The story runs a bit like this: Blaine is a nightclub owner in the town of Casablanca. This city is the final stop for Jews fleeing Europe to get away from Hitler’s oppressive grasp. Because of this, the town is rife with corruption: in Casablanca, anyone can get their immigration papers for the right price. Blaine does not intend to get involved with any of the locals-in fact, he tries not to take sides, even though several times throughout the movie we can see a defense for the Jewish people come out. Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman, who manages to hold her own against the formidable Bogart) shows up in town, and the audience is shown that these two have a past. Ilsa left Rick waiting in Paris after a fling several years prior. Rick is forced to confront his feelings for Ilsa, but he better do it fast-she’s leaving on a plane to America with her fianc©, who also happens to be the leader of a movement to unite people against the Nazi party.
“Casablanca” was made nearly 70 years ago, meaning that many film viewers today may write it off. But what is so refreshing about the film is that it was created in a time when actors could really bring romances to life in films. Today, we get actors and actresses that star in the same tired stories simply to get a paycheck (see: “The Back-Up Plan,” “The Bounty Hunter,” “Life as We Know It”). I honestly find it hard to believe the genuine connection between actors and actresses in these so called “Rom-Coms”. But what Bogart and Bergman bring to the screen is magical: we can feel the passion they have for each other, and even in the simplest of lines the two deliver magnificent performances. Bogart tries to play the tough guy, like usual, but in quiet scenes, such as one where he sits alone in bar, drinking while the piano player plays Ilsa’s and his song, we see his true feelings come out.
“Casablanca” takes us back to a Hollywood where the concept really mattered; a time before the media invaded everyone’s lives. Duty was something to be valued, much more than the petty problems of the stars that make the news today. Yes, “Casablanca” is a romance. But it is also a reminder to us all that there is a huge difference between what is right and what is easy. “Casablanca” places what is right on a pedestal, and for that it should be honored. You want a romance that feels real? Look no further than this classic.
Rick and Ilsa will always have Paris. But we, as film buffs, will always have “Casablanca”.