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Analysis of Casablanca in Terms of Film Theory

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A film critic can judge aesthetic appeal much easier than how to define films meaning and how it produces this meaning for the audience members. Yet, film theory does just this by answering the broader questions. Moreover, film theory can directly impact audience members perception on not only society but more specifically issues debated such as moral code and law, social order and right and wrong behavior. An example of how the above stated directly impacts the viewer can be seen in the film Casablanca. Critics of the film created a portrayal of the film as a medium to symbolize the ongoing social and political realities, and when mixed with the film’s narrative can be a very powerful tool that impacts each audience members’ perceptions and beliefs. The film is a powerful medium that is used as a platform for communicating ideas and values. The film narrative is not only molded from the time period but also the social values and culture of the individual viewer. Therefore, this film communicated specific themes and values through the film a narrative that is perceived on an individual basis. The same influence on a viewer’s perception is also shaped by the film theory used by critics. This is seen when the film Casablanca was released. Moreover, how the ideological film theory used not only by critics but also themes portrayed in the film’s narrative directly affect viewers’ outlook on society and the film’s themes.

Film theory is outlined by Prince (2013) as not dealing with assessing aesthetic success but with broader questions. Such as explaining what the medium is, how the film employs meaning for audience members as well. Breaking down film theory even more Prince (2013) states there are six main models of film theory that are essential to scholars and critics. Additionally, Prince (2013) summarizes how every model has its pros such as dealing with parts of film style and viewers experience while only dealing with some of the other aspects. Thus, every model creates a different portrait of the said medium than then others. Additionally, Prince (2013) outlines how every model has its pros such as dealing with parts of film style and viewers experience while only dealing with some of the other aspects. Thus, every model creates a different portrait of the said medium than the others. Prince (2013) defines ideological film theory that is used by critics, as considering the relationship between society and films. Especially, how a film can symbolize political and social realities. Furthermore, ideology is defined as a set of beliefs about the nature of the world and society that include judgments about the ideals of law and social order, right and wrong and behavior. For the film, Casablanca Sennett (2009) explains how the time period prior to the release of the film was during WWII when America was forced into the war. Due to the lack of support from the public mass persuasion in the form of political propaganda would be essential towards the war front effort. Therefore, to assure the American people that it was in fact their moral duty to eliminate the rule of the Nazi Tyranny created the film Casablanca (1942). The films propaganda is defined by Sennett (2009) as the pre-determined action of circulating a specific aspect of the world by utilizing the industrial means of cinema.

Taking a closer look at how the themes were presented to the public that affected their overall attitudes not only towards the war and then the need for an individual sacrifice that was essential to not only making a difference but defining right and wrong in the context of selflessness. Sennett (2009) goes on to state how in the film the political events are mixed with a compelling romantic melodrama. During the middle section of the film, Rick is reunited with his past love unexpectedly. Which causes him to be bitter at first and he learns the truth about her and her husband. While doing so Sennett (2009) explains how Rick restores his pledge to fight Fascism. Thus, disregarding his isolationist, “I stick my neck out for nobody” lifestyle. Therefore, the film strengthens its propaganda message of Americans cannot continue to stay neutral when up against Nazism, through a romantic melodrama. Sennett (2009) adds to this by stating how Rick gives up his personal happiness for the bigger cause, which is defending liberty. That leaves one to question if this is powerful enough to move audience members to make comparable sacrifices. Adding to this, Kinner (2019) explains the prompt effect of the film’s examination and delivery of the unselfish engagement to ideals. Rick is the films moral compass around which all characters and plot orbit. Kinner (2019) goes on to state how Rick is divided between patriotism and neutrality, romantic involvement and independence. Critics consider Rick as an engaging hero that echoed the mood of wartime America. Overall, Rick turns into a visual indication of a man with virtues who underwent personal sacrifice because he was in the face of war. Furthermore, this display of virtue is essential in a great cause continuing forward.

Another example in the film explored by Sennett (2009) is the friendship between Rick and Captain Renault. The film labels their friendship as beautiful and has been explained by a few critics being the actual romance of the film. Thus, making the designed message crystal clear being Franco-American unity versus the Vichy and Germany. Personally, watching this movie today I was still moved even after reading the film theory behind this movie. Reading about how this movie defined right in wrong based on sacrifice that was needed to defend and defeat the “wrong” that was taking place only cemented the patriotism and need to do “the right thing”. So I could only image how impactful the critic theory along with the film’s narrative was during this war-time period to a viewer. One scene in particular in Rick’s café when the battle of what I could only assume is a national anthem or song. That moment was so powerful and emotional and I am an American living in 2019. It gave me a sense of urgency, purpose, unity, and pride. One can see how powerful prior criticism of a film along with the films’ narratives can impact a viewer not only during the time period of creation but also for many years to come.


  1. Kinner, A. C. (2019). Casablanca Marks the Artistic Apex of 1940’s War-Themed Films. Salem Press Encyclopedia. Retrieved from
  2. Prince, S. (2013). Movies and meaning: An introduction to film (6th ed.). Essex: Pearson.
  3. Sennett, A. (2009). Play It Again, Uncle Sam. Journal of Popular Film & Television, 37(1), 2–8.

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