February 14, 2019 at 12:01 pm #1296Raina Schoen ThomasParticipant
Neutrality, Group Heroism, and Music in Casablanca
Richard Blaine certainly embodies the archetype of the reluctant hero and appears to be stuck in Campbell’s “refusal of the call” stage throughout most of the movie. However, I would say that it was Rick’s convincing neutral stance combined with the influence of many other players that resulted in the successful escape of Victor Laszlo. The bitter event of losing Ilsa in the past shaped Rick into the perfect secret hero. For many years he was bitter, indifferent and self-serving. This proved to be a very effective guise that enabled him to accumulate power and influence without being seen as a threat. I don’t think this was ever Rick’s intentions, but in this world, fate wouldn’t have it any other way.
Rick would not have been able to be successful, however, without the influence of the people around him. These characters would be described by Joseph Campbell as the heralds, allies, and goddesses. Many of the characters in the film made heroic sacrifices for the greater good. Ilsa put aside her love for Rick to go away with Laszlo and back a greater cause. Renault finally joined the side of the heroes during the last moments of the film by lying to the police about who shot Strasser, a criminal offense. I think that the film could have centered around any of these characters and we would have easily identified them as the “hero”. Based on this, I would say the hero isn’t one person acting alone, they are an entire congregation of circumstances and vital secondary aids that act as a unit to get the heroic task done. This way of looking at the concept of the hero shifts the spotlight away from one individual and instead places the burden into the hands of the entire community. The symbol of the hero can be dangerous, because to many people it can appear to be an insurmountable role to fill. Because of this the task card gets passed off with the hope that it will fall into the hands of some demigod. However, many great feats are the results of the joint effort of many individuals. Those who call themselves “everyday people” need to remember this.
What impresses me is how quickly and precisely a Hollywood film was able to represent and take a stance on a contemporary issue. United States neutrality during both world wars was a very controversial issue and its implications are still discussed to this day. It has been my perception that classic Hollywood movies were “safe”. Their stories were merely created to draw in an audience and tactfully avoid bringing up anything controversial or taboo. While the statement is somewhat hidden beneath the storyline, the symbolism is not very difficult to pick out. For that I applaud this film. The original plot took the form of a play called Everybody Comes to Rick’s, which was written by two Americans in 1940. This was even before the United States entered World War II and the writers were most likely trying to demonstrate how remaining neutral will ultimately not aid the greater good.
Another thing that I admire about the film is its use of music. Music in Casablanca is both a diegetic and non-diegetic element. The film has a score as well as musical numbers within the world of the story. Both forms of music serve as a framing device for the film’s plot and characterization. Ilsa has Sam play the love song “As Time Goes By” to attract Rick into the bar room. Rick had a strict rule that that song never be played, which symbolizes his rejection of love. The second time “As Time Goes By” is played it triggers a flashback and Rick is filled with the memories of his love lost with Ilsa. “La Marseillaise”, the French national anthem, bookends the film as a reminder of one of its overarching themes, the struggle for freedom in the face of tyranny. The anthem also gets performed by the patrons and band members in Rick’s café as a riposte to the German marching song, another heroic group effort.
—Raina Schoen ThomasFebruary 18, 2019 at 1:15 pm #1307Jason WhelehanParticipant
Im curious of a particular quality that seems to blur with Rick’s neutrality, and Renault as well. It seems ther lack of scruples helps to shape what comes across as neutrality. I feel like rick has always been the “hero” and as mentioned in the post, he is refusing the call, he’s bitter over lost love, etc. but we get glimpses of his lack of neutrality throughout. Renault is a bit harder to pin down because his lack of scruples are overt. Rick even comments on his lack of subtlety. Renault is all about self preservation. He is unscrupulous. But like Rick, his neutrality, or lack there of is exposed in the end. Regardless, I completely agree with the arc presented in the post from reluctant hero and neutrality, to growth into the hero.
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