Talk about the ending of Casablanca. Talk about Ilsa’s choice. Or actually – Rick made the choice for her: You will go with Laszlo. Ilsa loves both men. Not in the same way, but she does love both men, and she walks away from the “grand passion”.
In my opinion, it is this very self-sacrificial feeling to the end of that movie that makes it a classic. If everyone had gotten what they wanted, (or – to put it another way: if Rick and Ilsa had gotten what they wanted) it just wouldn’t have been as effective. The movie works because of that bittersweet wistful “what if” streak running through it.
Anyway: anyone who has anything to add to all of this: interpretations, additional thoughts, an analysis on HOW these two could POSSIBLY walk away from one another … bring it on.
Laszlo – in his finest moment:
If we identify strongly with the characters in some movies, then it is no mystery that “Casablanca” is one of the most popular films ever made. It is about a man and a woman who are in love, and who sacrifice love for a higher purpose. This is immensely appealing; the viewer is not only able to imagine winning the love of Humphrey Bogart or Ingrid Bergman, but unselfishly renouncing it, as a contribution to the great cause of defeating the Nazis.
Yes. It is that unselfishness, the renouncing of the great love, that makes this film so effective. But still: so painful. Everyone pays a price in this scenario – everyone.
Here’s another excerpt from Ebert to discuss:
What is intriguing is that none of the major characters is bad. Some are cynical, some lie, some kill, but all are redeemed. If you think it was easy for Rick to renounce his love for Ilsa–to place a higher value on Laszlo’s fight against Nazism–remember Forster’s famous comment, “If I were forced to choose between my country and my friend, I hope I would be brave enough to choose my friend.”
From a modern perspective, the film reveals interesting assumptions. Ilsa Lund’s role is basically that of a lover and helpmate to a great man; the movie’s real question is, which great man should she be sleeping with? There is actually no reason why Laszlo cannot get on the plane alone, leaving Ilsa in Casablanca with Rick, and indeed that is one of the endings that was briefly considered. But that would be all wrong; the “happy” ending would be tarnished by self-interest, while the ending we have allows Rick to be larger, to approach nobility (“it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world”). And it allows us, vicariously experiencing all of these things in the theater, to warm in the glow of his heroism.
Anyone have anything to add?
Welcome, people coming here from Ann Althouse! Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment thread about this film. It’s a great discussion going on.