Casablanca, (Michael Curtiz, 1942), explores the ideals of love and sacrifice in the context of World War Two. These themes are propagated by the selfless actions of Rick, a cynical night club owner, and Ilsa, who must suppress her love for Rick in order to support her husband, Victor Laszlow, an anti-Nazi crusadist. The key scene in which Rick and Ilsa are reunited in the presence of Victor Laszlow and Captain Louis Renault at Rick's Café emphasizes the tensions which arise from Rick and Ilsa's obligations to love and sacrifice. Elements of mise-en-scène, particularly lighting, acting, costume, make-up, and staging, reveal the tensions between Rick and Ilsa, generate different sympathies for each of the characters, and implicitly exacerbate the pervading Nazi threat. On a broader scale, the stylistic elements cultivate ideological sympathy for the Allied cause and anxiety towards war. One key formal element of the scene is the lighting which allows the audience to see Ilsa as her lovers do. Ilsa, played by Ingrid Bergman, receives a fill light that removes the shadows on her face, making her skin appear perfectly smooth. The back light provides a halo effect, reinforcing her portrayal as an innocent, sympathetic woman. Although Ilsa has betrayed Rick, her portrayal as a compassionate, almost angelic figure complicates the audience's interpretation of her character.
In contrast, Rick's lighting creates a haggard image of the older night club owner. His key light casts shadows which emphasize wrinkles. This wearied picture of Humphrey Bogart, who acts the part of Rick, complicates the relationship between Ilsa and Rick. Clearly Ilsa, who has injured Rick, sympathizes with her former lover. However, her relationship with Laszlow precludes the possibility of Ilsa manifesting her love for Rick. Thus, the lighting places a dichotomy between Rick, a lonely bachelor, and Ilsa, a beautiful, angelic lady. The characters are admirable in two different...
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