Jeanne: Why We Love Casablanca

casablanca-3328692_640Recently, I read an analysis of the romance in the movie Casablanca  “The Wrong Man Gave her the Right Feelings,” by Nancy Graham Holm. The thesis of her article is that, even though Rick and Ilsa’s love is considered to be one of the greatest onscreen romances in history, they don’t really love each other because they don’t really know each other.

As Holm points out, when Rick and Ilsa first meet in Paris, there’s no reason for her not to tell Rick about Victor. She believes her husband to be dead and herself a woman free to form a new commitment. So why wouldn’t she tell Rick that? Victor’s dead, so spilling the beans won’t harm him. She’s not traveling under an alias, so it’s not like she’s trying to keep herself, Victor’s widow, hidden. The real reason, of course, is to give the romance plot a jumping-off point.

(Note #1: This is far from Casablanca’s biggest plot hole. The entire movie is based on the search for missing “letters of transit,” signed by Charles de Gaulle, which would allow the bearer to pass through Nazi territory without being arrested. Charles de Gaulle was the leader of the French resistance and absolutely not a person whose signature would in any way impress a Nazi officer.)

(Note #2: There is no way my editor, Karen Dale Harris, would have ever allowed either of these plot holes to slip by.)

(Note #3: Not that she would have gotten a chance (even if she’d been alive when it was filmed, which she wasn’t) because the second half of the script for Casablanca was written while the first half was being filmed–and the entire filming took place between May 25 and August 3, 1942.)

Holm goes on to say that one of the reasons we don’t notice these flaws in the film is because it’s in black and white. Black and white films are low definition, requiring our brains to work harder and leaving us with less critical capacity.

Despite all these flaws, it’s still a great movie and a moving love story.

What’s your favorite love story?

5 thoughts on “Jeanne: Why We Love Casablanca

  1. The very premise of Casablanca is flawed. The city never was a major refugee route from Vichy controlled territories to America, and no uniformed Nazi troops were stationed there. It doesn’t matter a hoot. The movie is atmospheric, and gorgeous, and moving. I’d argue that it’s a guy’s version of a love story (see my post about Napoleon yesterday, for more of the same). Rick and Ilsa don’t know one another at all. They have no basis for a lasting relationship and it doesn’t matter, because they are never going to be together. It’s all about the guy, and glorious, heroic self-sacrifice, and the woman who will have to live without him but will love him forever. In the context of this story, a HEA would have been a disastrous cop-out.

    It’s hard for me to choose a favorite love story, but in terms of a grand passion, I’d choose the romance in Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. Over the series the heroine grows into a brilliant equal for the hero, and the scene where he finally admits he’s desperately, irrevocably in love with her (he’s legally married to her but about to get rid of her and marry someone else because Reasons; she’s forever in love with him but has no idea he returns her feelings) still makes me weep buckets every time I read it. In the best possible way 😉

    • Oooh, you know another one like that in terms of men liking self-sacrifice and never enjoying a HEA? The Bridges of Madison County. Oh, my husband really liked that one (even though he is a farmer and I am a foreign wife . . . I don’t want to think too deeply about that one). I thought it was a good movie, too. But satisfying romance? No. For me, a satisfying romance is one where the guy is going to stick around (and the gal, too).

  2. What an interesting observation about the black and white messing with your ability to think straight. I wonder what’s the equivalent in written fiction? LOL, rainbow font? A book written in blackletter? I do think it’s BS; people spot plotholes just fine when speed reading black and white letters in a book. But if it could be true . . . .

    Casablanca is a beautifully shot movie, though, and it’s also about a doomed love. I think everyone’s had one of those to one degree or the other. Maybe Ilsa didn’t mention Victor because she was not looking for a commitment, anyway. Perhaps she always hoped that Victor was alive, but wanted a little comfort, anyway. Maybe she’s not terribly monogamous.

    I do feel cheated that her agency was stolen from her. These men decided what was best for her. Her feelings needed to be sacrificed for Victor and the Cause because Rick was sacrificing his feelings for Victor and the Cause. But Rick always had a taste for masochism. Perhaps Ilsa dodged a bullet.

    • Casablanca beautifully shot–so true. There’s incredible depth of metaphor in the cinematography–the slanting bars of light that create virtual prisons, the wedding lace she holds in her hands at the bazaar while they snipe at each other about betrayal.

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