When it comes to classic Hollywood cinema, Casablanca is like a well made cocktail, made by an informed bartender. A shot of mystery, a generous slosh of self sacrificing love, a wedge of suspense, and the rim of the glass coated in ancient sugar that tastes like it’s been in the cupboard since the 1920s. Many may consider this film dated, but it is the type of charming film you’d watch with your mum in front of the fire on a frosty night when winter knocks at the window, and she’d tell you how she watched it with her mother on nights very similar to this one.
Casablanca conflates two timeless spectacles, the horrors of the holocaust, and the enigma of the ménage à trois. The historical context of the war, even today, creates an emotional involvement amongst audiences. Casablanca shows us the flip side of World War 2, and shows us how in a time of peril many sought comfort in the arms of someone who was close at hand. Human connections which are formed at this time, can cross borders, from Paris to northern Morroco.
However the taboo and sin of adultery is one considered and perhaps even condoned in this film. Ilsa Lund is acted by Ingrid Bergman, plays the femme fatale, with her low seductive voice and eyes which seem to glisten with colour even in black and white. Despite the fact that while her husband suffers in a concentration camp, she seeks solace in another man, she seems to be pardoned for all this, even by her husband, because after all she is beautiful, isn’t she? Regardless of her beauty, I still certainly struggle with this taboo that the film tackles. Ilsa appears to me to be self serving and her husband Victor entirely self sacrificing. Even after 50 years, the ménage à trois is still an issue which confounds and splits the public, from John and Jackie Kennedy, and his infamous mistress Marilyn Monroe, to the Twilight triad, Edward, Bella and Jacob. This contentious issue is well discussed, and one which undoubtedly draws viewers to watch this film (personally I’m Team Victor). I watched a documentary on love recently which dictated that women want men to be strong and then soft, and this is exactly what these protagonists Rick and Victor are. They have demanding and often impatient voices and stern brows, and yet both are entirely smitten with Ilsa, taking care of her wellbeing, and her security, even willing to sacrifice their own love for her if it means her happiness.
This film is uplifting, it shows us how friendship and love prevails even in a time of peril. It made me consider those I love, and how lucky I am to live in a world where humanity does exist, and in the good sense of the word. Casablanca is timeless, and funny too, it is full of one liners which will still make audiences snicker today. When you’re sat wherever you are when you watch it, curled up on the couch with your family, in an auditorium full of students, reflect on the humanity around you, and the connections you’ve made. Awful things happen every day, but people keep finding a way to make you smile at least once, even on the most overcast day.
Check out my other film review!