Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Scorched Earth.. and then a Flower

A 4.0 paper on the journeys of Casablanca characters Rick Blaine and Viktor Laszlo, for the subject American Cinema (USACINE, also known as USAPOPC).



It was a bloody conflict, lasting six years. It took tens of millions of lives. Continents were ravaged, whole populations destroyed. Hope, faith, and love were merely words that once existed. Yet in the midst of all this worldly turmoil, in a tiny, insignificant corner of the world, unknown to all who were involved in some way with the war, a painfully glorious love triangle emerged.

In my eyes, Rick Blaine’s and Victor Laszlo’s journeys to the tiny jump-off city of Casablanca, while shown to happen at different times, more or less meant the same thing: the very human search of hope, when hope was virtually non-existent. The mechanized tentacles of the Third Reich reached deep into every corner of Europe, North Africa, and their allies had an iron grip in Asia. Only the Americas seemed to be safe for the moment. Blaine’s journey to Casablanca not-so-subtly reflected America’s foray into the 20th century; young, idealistic, and morally upright. When one gives one’s all into something that one believes in so much, and see it happen all over again at a much bigger scale, disillusionment sets in – exactly the case of Blaine, and to an almost exact extent, his motherland, America. America did a lot to put an end to an idealistic war, and when it was all over and then happens again, it did all it could to look out for itself, much like how Blaine retreated and isolated himself in his Café Americain. Laszlo, on the other hand, was a man who exemplified what generations of Americans have envisioned themselves to be; courageous, persevering, charismatic, resourceful, and above all, patriotic. I believe that his and Blaine’s characters reflected well the turmoil that went through many Americans’ minds about joining the “European War”, as some would call it. Laszlo, at the end of his rope, finally went to Casablanca to secure a pass that could allow him to help in the war effort in the best way he knew how, unlike Blaine, who appears to be more gung-ho in his previous war efforts. In my opinion, Blaine and Laszlo represented the two conflicting ideals on how to be involved in the War, and yet, deep in their hearts, both men had the same goal, and that was for freedom to prevail over tyranny, and for the world to be liberated from the horrors of war.

Many of the dialogue within the film were off-hand and rather witty. In years that offered so little to laugh about, Casablanca’s dialogue that used affectionate terms such as ‘kid’ as a term of endearment most probably made a lot smile. I believe that the lack of very long and winding dialogues were a welcome break from the dozens of long and detailed radio reports that everyone was hearing broadcasted over the airwaves everyday. Quick, direct exchanges between the main characters like Blaine and his French associate Renault were definitely appreciated more than the stiff, very German-like lines from Strasser, the local German commander. Many scenes also portrayed humanity overcoming the horrors of war. At a time when almost everyone would kill to escape to America, Ilsa Lund could not bring herself to kill the man she loves, even if it meant sacrificing the opportunity to escape for both her and Laszlo. I particularly admire the scene in which Blaine – a self-confessed all-around neutral – allowed the ‘battle of the anthems to happen in his café. His actions spoke of a neutral man finally choosing a side to believe in, and to fight for. He showed that when the proverbial object hits the fan, it was time to take decisive action. Also, Renault’s hypocritical actions – the gambling scene for instance, when he forbids gambling in the café one second, and takes his winnings the next – also lend a touch of humor. Perhaps everything was not so bad after all if, as seen in Casablanca, Blaine’s patrons could still give themselves the occasional enjoyment. Perhaps the most stirring part in the film was when La Marseillaise overcame The Guard on the Rhine in Blaine’s café. The Germans had every right to be happy and to sing nationalistic songs; they held Europe at gunpoint. However, Blaine allowed the long-simmering feelings of patriotism to finally overflow and explode among his patrons as they drown out the German voices with a powerful rendition of La Marseillaise, led by the idealistic Laszlo.

Casablanca showed that not even war could stop humanity from prevailing over conflict, no matter how big or overwhelming that conflict may be, and that human nature such as hope, faith, and love do have permanent places in each person’s heart, so long as they answer its call at the right place and the right time, much like how flowers seemingly just appear in blood-soaked and scorched battlefields, reminding the living that living is more than just being alive.

© J.Cruz, Bachelor of Arts, International Studies (American)
De La Salle University - Manila


This paper is available to anyone for reference, as long as its primary source (me and/or this blog) is cited. Say 'no' to plagiarism. :)


1 comment:

  1. Excellent! This is what I call an intellectual review.

    Keep it up!