I know that Sarah at Art Expedition intends to write about Casablanca for a Film Friday post, and I apologise for my poor form in preempting my hostess. I had in fact written an entirely different post, but it was about a comedy, and I’m not really in the mood for a laugh.
So, Casablanca. A man who’s doing ok in difficult times gives it all up — including the chance to be with the woman he loves — because it’s the right thing to do.
The film’s hero, Rick is complex; a tough-guy with a heart of gold, a man with a past, an American exiled in Europe. A crook. A mercenary. A lover. A man with power over other people’s lives who chooses to use that power to help rather than destroy.
The film was based on an un-produced play, Everybody Comes to Rick’s, and was made before the United States entered WWII in December 1941. In Casablanca, Rick embodies America — an isolationist finding that position increasingly untenable in a brutal, collapsing world. When Rick made his decision to sacrifice personal happiness to join the fight, America itself was still undecided. Casablanca was propaganda wrapped in a love story with a side order of dark humour.
You see where I’m going with this? The world is in turmoil again (or still, depending on how you look at it). Environmental and social collapse are not as far away as we’d like to think and every one of us is living in Casablanca.
The question is: what will we choose to do about it?
One of the scenes I love best in the movie is where the patrons of Rick’s bar — led by the resistance leader Victor Laszlo — begin singing La Marseillaise to drown out a group of German officers singing their own patriotic songs.
Like everything else in the film, the symbolism is clear and powerful. Stand up, and use the collective power of many voices to drown out the bullies.
But if recent events have taught us anything, it’s that speaking is not enough.
So whatever your equivalent of La Marseillaise is, by all means sing it at the top of your voice, but we also need to dig deeper. We may not have to risk our lives or throw away our livelihoods and lovers like Rick, but many of us do have the power to make a difference; with our votes, our wallets, our actions — especially our actions. And especially around our kids.
And for the natural cynics, like me:
Don’t you sometimes wonder if it’s worth all this? I mean what you’re fighting for.
You might as well question why we breathe. If we stop breathing, we’ll die. If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die.
About Film Friday
Sarah at Art Expedition, and Darren, The Arty Plantsman have initiated this great new blogging project. You can find out more and see their chosen films for the week by visiting the latest post by Darren and Sarah.