To tell a story is difficult, but to present a screen version of a story is even more difficult. The difficulty is compounded when the backdrop is the middle of a world war- as the viewers of today cannot be expected to be acquainted with the harsh realities which would have been easily identified with by that generation, but not today’s. Yet CASABLANCA, despite belonging to a peculiar period, brings out the human predicament. An irreconcilable predicament and that predicament is brought out unobtrusively, which appeals to a thinking person’s sub-conscious. The apparent one liners and the style are there to catch the fancy of the movie watchers who go for leisure or mere entertainment.
Let us get to the movie structure. There was a man who finds a woman. The MAN finds a WOMAN. Each had found what each had been subconsciously seeking. They separate. The MAN is unaware of the reasons as to why the WOMAN did not turn up for the tryst. The tryst was to take them out of the City, alas, the Woman does not turn up!
Next we find the man running a salon in an uncommon nook of the Dark Continent. And successfully at that, and he is showing traces of misogyny. The Woman turns up at that salon, with another man. They bump into each other. There is no doubt that Humphrey Bogart is the MAN of the two, but the other man is a LEADER, a leader with a CAUSE. The woman is the TROPHY that is swaying between the MAN on one side and the LEADER OF MEN on the other side.
Each has his/her own reasons, but the movie is no place to furnish reasons. The reasons are never scientific, and one can never know if the reasons are POST FACTO JUSTIFICATIONS or PRE FACTO OSTENSIBLE REASONS! Ingrid had mistakenly believed her husband- the LEADER OF MEN,to be dead. No one gets legal and asks if seven years had lapsed since he was heard of (according to the Indian Laws, that is Civil Death), and if Justice Krishna Iyer had been given the case, he would have decided that the WOMAN (Ingrid) was all HUMPHREY’S, as he would have applied the Islamic Laws and said that since as a husband Laszlo did not maintain her for two years, Ingrid would be entitled to a divorce (ref: Yousuf Rowther v. Sowramma- Kerala High Court)!!! She finds him, rather she is found by Victor Laszlo, and Ingrid decides to ditch the rendezvous. Some justification.
But of all the GIN JOINTS, INGRID TURNS UP AT RICK’S. She promptly falls into the karms of the MAN, more so when she discovers that Rick, is the only man who could ensure a passage to the US, either with Victor or Rick. (Look at the name VICTOR! VICTORY OVER RICK??)
The beauty of the structure is that there is a MAN, a WOMAN and a LEADER. The MAN can make the WOMAN feel like a WOMAN- a capacity to make the person realize her intrinsic worth. The LEADER who shows the WOMAN that he has discovered a CAUSE that is dearer than the WOMAN, and therefore willing to even DIE FOR THE CAUSE. The trophy is the shining INGRID (Ilsa in the Movie). She has to decide whether she is going to become a PERFECT WOMAN or a PERFECT FOLLOWER & CONFIDANTE of the LEADER. She sways to the side of the MAN, but the end is totally entrusted to the MAN himseelf.
The MAN has to redeem the WOMAN or let her go with the LEADER, he had planned to redeem her like Boaz from the kinsman, but whether the redemption is going to RESTORE THE PRISTINE LOVE THAT HE FELT FOR HER, is the issue. Is Rick going to feel that he was merely reclaiming the left overs of a long lost ROMANCE (after all they have Paris and why contaminate it with Laszlo at the background?)?
ONLY RICK COULD TELL. AND RICK DOESN’T(like any self-respecting MAN?)!!
The movie is the best as it amalgamates human predicament with the vicissitudes of Fate and the human perceptions that arise therefrom.
WATCH AND WONDER.