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Literary genre plays a crucial role in how authors build and convey stories to their readers. It encompasses the devices and techniques that impact the emotions and thoughts of the audience. This essay explores the literary genre of the film 'Casablanca,' directed by Michael Curtiz, delving into its narrative, setting, images, motifs, and language to understand how it engages the viewer.
'Casablanca' employs a third-person narrative perspective, where director Michael Curtiz carefully selects and presents the story to the audience.
While the film primarily follows the experiences of the central character, Rick, it also offers glimpses from various characters' points of view. This narrative choice allows the audience to connect with Rick, the focal character, even though he may not be immediately likable. It aligns the viewer's consciousness with Rick's, drawing them into his world.
Director Curtiz strategically frames Rick through the camera, emphasizing his centrality to the story. For instance, early shots introduce Rick, focusing on his hand signing an advance slip, his expressionless face while playing chess, and his confrontation with a pompous German.
These shots invite viewers to identify with Rick and understand the events from his perspective.
This approach serves to discourage the audience from having to choose between Rick and other characters like resistance leader Victor Laszlo. As the story revolves around Rick's transformation from self-interest to involvement in the Allied cause, maintaining this connection is essential.
'Casablanca' adheres to the principles of Classical Hollywood Narrative structure, providing a clear and accessible storyline for its audience.
The film's opening credits, superimposed on a political map of Africa, introduce crucial details through a voice-over narration, setting the stage for the unfolding narrative. This narration ensures that viewers understand the historical context, the Nazi takeover of Europe, and the plight of political refugees fleeing Hitler.
The chronological order of events aids comprehension, allowing the audience to follow the cause-effect chain. Although the film briefly deviates from this order during a flashback to Rick's past with his lover in France, this narrative device enhances character development without disrupting the overarching structure.
Furthermore, 'Casablanca' maintains the Classical Hollywood Narrative principle of closure. While the ending may not align with the conventional Hollywood resolution where lovers reunite, it provides closure by revealing the fate of the characters. This departure from the expected ending adds depth and complexity to the narrative.
'Casablanca' is set in the Moroccan city of Casablanca during the early days of World War II. The choice of this setting is integral to the narrative's development as it places all the characters in a foreign and transient environment. Casablanca's historical connection to France, coupled with its geographical isolation, allows for unique interactions among representatives of Vichy France, the Resistance, and the Nazi Party.
Casablanca serves as a waiting port for refugees seeking to escape Nazi-occupied Europe and settle in democratic countries. However, this hope often proves elusive, and only the wealthy or those willing to compromise their morals can secure exit visas. Corruption runs rampant in Casablanca, where people take enormous risks to achieve their goals. This is exemplified by the young Bulgarian couple gambling with their future to escape, saved only by Rick's intervention.
Moreover, the film portrays the apparent devaluation of human life in Casablanca, reflecting a divided and conflict-ridden world where a pessimistic outlook prevails. Corruption, tension, and danger characterize this setting, reinforcing the film's somber tone.
Throughout 'Casablanca,' the recurring image of a spotlight illuminating the city symbolizes constant surveillance. The spotlight serves as a reminder to the inhabitants that they are always being watched, reinforcing the oppressive atmosphere. It frequently passes by the front doors of Rick's, a place where government authority and invasive surveillance intersect.
This visual motif also underscores the vulnerability of characters like Victor Laszlo, who are constantly monitored. When Ilsa returns to Rick's, the spotlight backlighting her in the doorframe creates a dramatic image, marking a pivotal moment in the narrative. This image suggests that even Rick and Ilsa's romance is under scrutiny due to the war's changed conditions.
Another significant motif in the film is money, which is associated with corruption. Rick allows Captain Renault to win at roulette, emphasizing the prevalence of corruption in Casablanca. Money becomes a driving force, leading people to take enormous risks in their pursuit of escape, a theme exemplified by the young Bulgarian couple's gamble for freedom.
The motif of money underscores the film's portrayal of a divided and conflict-ridden world, where only the wealthy or morally compromised can secure their passage out of Casablanca.
'Casablanca' employs dialogue that is both direct and sub-textual, contributing to the film's cynical tone. Characters engage in sharp and memorable exchanges, often delivering one-liners that resonate with viewers. Through their actions and interactions, viewers gain insights into the characters' personalities and motivations.
For instance, Rick initially appears cold, cynical, and distant, and this impression is reinforced by his refusal to help Ugarte in a moment of panic. His actions and dialogue reveal much about his character. Similarly, the banter between Rick and Captain Renault reflects their shared cynicism and loyalty to their own cause.
The film's musical score by Max Steiner is celebrated for enhancing its emotional impact. The music complements the narrative, guiding the audience's emotional responses. Diegetic and non-diegetic music, such as 'As Time Goes By' and 'La Marseillaise,' contribute to the film's romantic, nostalgic, and patriotic themes, enriching the viewing experience.
'Casablanca' is a masterful example of how literary genre elements come together to create a compelling cinematic experience. Through its narrative perspective, structure, setting, motifs, and language, the film engages the audience emotionally and intellectually. Its exploration of love, sacrifice, and political allegory within the backdrop of a tumultuous world war exemplifies the power of literary genre in storytelling.
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