Casablanca Film Techniques

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The Lights of Casablanca

-An indepth look into the lighting techniques employed and the context in which they were used, caught between film noir and the classic Hollywood style.

Casablanca (1942), directed by Michael Curtiz, is a perennial favorite, depicting unique

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman
characters caught in situations out of their control. While the film’s story is engaging on many levels, Curtiz’s use of lighting is an integral tool he uses to help tell of the story. Previously (1930’s) in Hollywood the point of lighting was to light everything as well as possible so the audience could see what was happening (Nelmes 70). Casablanca follows the lead of the early film noirs in their use of lighting contributing to the expression of the mood and characters. It was also being made at the time when film noir was still in its infancy, and since noir is not limited by a genre, only by the style of the film, it spilt over into Casablanca, giving it a different feel. (Grant 230) The director, Curtiz, grew up and first directed films in Europe, where cinema was more expressive, and many of the actors and actresses were also émigrés from Europe. (Harmetz 212) Another personnel decision which affected the feel of the film was the choice of Arthur Edeson, director of photography for both Casablanca as well as an early film noir The Maltese Falcon, a year previous. These influences led to a film that has more lighting effects in common with film noir than with the classic Hollywood style. These techniques are used to help create the characters of Rick Blaine as well as Ilsa Lund. Key themes are also partially developed with the use of deliberate lighting: the happiness of Paris,the increased tension at the end of the film, the fog at the airport, the lighting of Rick’s Café, and the ever-present spotlight. Most of these techniques expressed elements that would later be categorized as film noir, with the largest exception being how Ilsa is lit....
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