Social Issues in Casablanca Film

Thesis statement

Casablanca is the embodiment of a classical, timeless Hollywood movie with its black and white screening, incredible soundtrack and star studded cast that highlights a lot of philosophical and sociological issues. Thus, this movie allows us to reflect and think about the world and life. The movie brings to the fore issues concerning social conflicts, class and moral conflicts and civil struggle in the society.


Casablanca was produced in 1942 at the beginning of the Second World War. It was directed by Michael Curtiz and included casting of some of the A-list stars in the movie world like Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who plays the role of a political club owner on the unoccupied French territory, which is filled with the Nazis; Lisa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), playing the role of his lover who mysteriously deserted him, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), playing the role of her heroic, somewhat bemused husband among others.

It was set in Casablanca, the current capital city of Morocco, at the beginning of the Second World War. In its introduction the movie focuses on a revolving globe and more so, on North Africa, as some Arabic songs are heard in the background. It is an intriguing movie with an amazing touch of sophistication that has made it a classic and arguably the best motion picture in the history of Hollywood film industry. Casablanca is a romantic drama that captures thematic issues which remain relevant in the today’s society. It strikes a balance in telling of a love story and the loss of that love; it highlights the difference between virtue and vice, good and evil, duty and treachery. To a great extent it shows the courage and cowardice, hatred and friendship and difference between love and lust. It is further made great by the impossible choices and sacrifices made by the cast in the movie. What makes Casablanca a unique and a classic movie is that it manages to achieve most of the features that make most movies to be successful. It has the necessary star power with characters that are colorful and memorable and who has the ability to produce remarkable acting performances. The direction of the movie is brilliant, the script is witty and intriguing, there is skilled cinematography and the choice of soundtracks to the movie is astounding (Harlan & Epstein, 1992).

Issues highlighted in the movie

The movie relies on the drama character to bring out numerous issues that bedeviled the world in 1942. It is at this time the world was faced with the reality of the Second World War and the chaos it caused all over the world. The movie highlights the plight of the refugees who were escaping the Nazi persecution. In the movie there is a considerable mention of the Nazi concentration camps; this was particularly critical as it brought the issue to the knowledge of the world as majority of the Americans were either unaware or unconcerned. In this way the real problems that the refugees escaping the Nazi persecution were brought to the attention of the whole world.

Casablanca played an important part in some of the most heated political debates of that period. It makes a stinging attack against the collaborationist policies of the Vichy government in France. At the beginning of the movie, a suspect is brutally shot down in front of a poster of Marshal Petain, who was the leader of the Vichy puppet regime. This scene in the movie is made in an effort to remind the French of some of their very own esteemed ideals that they seemed to have forgotten and betraying. The camera captures a poster with the French revolutionary slogan translated to mean “liberty, equality, fraternity” (Aljean, 2002).

The movie having been set in the era of the Second World War, addresses one of the most pressing concerns to the American citizens at that time. This was the issue of whether the USA should join the war. Most citizens were against the USA joining the war. In fact, a poll that had been carried out during that period showed that a whooping 96% of the US population was against the war. However, by the time the movie was released, the debate of whether the Americans should join the war had been muted by the Pearl Harbor attack by Japan, which then prompted the USA to join the war. Nevertheless, the script of the movie still was focused on the debate of neutrality and proved wrong those who had argued for neutrality of the USA. This is captured by the amazing character of Rick Blaine, who is taken to represent America in the movie. His actions are likened to those of the USA, although this is expressed rather cleverly and not in the normal manner that we are used to in the modern movies (Frank 1992).

The debate as to whether the USA was to remain neutral in the war is shown when Captain Renault asks Rick whether he will intervene on behalf of the suspicious characters in Casablanca, Rick firmly replies, “I stick my neck out for nobody”. The Captain then terms this as “a wise foreign policy”, thereby shifting attention of the audience from Rick’s personal character to that of the general issue of involvement of the USA in the European Affairs. The issue of neutrality is continually discussed in the movie and references are made as to the Rick’s involvement in the previous affairs of Europe with considerable success. This involvement is termed as heroic. This reflects on the USA and its character of intervening in issues for the greater good. It asserts that it is wrong for the country to take an assuming role in the affairs of the world. This debate culminates when Rick finally decides to sacrifice his personal interests and do something for the cause of humanity to save the life of the Anti-Nazi fighter, Victor Laszlo. This reflects the position taken by the USA.

Casablanca also reflects on the role of women during this period. At first, one may not notice the role that is played by the leading female character in the movie. However, upon watching the movie critically, it is noted that a woman is reflected as a weak being compared to the male counterpart. Casablanca reflects women as weak beings, controlled by their emotions and unable to overpower such emotions. This role is played by Lisa whose emotions take the leading role. Specifically Lisa is shown to be in love with Rick, but she can not tell him. During the 1940’s, the role of the black male in the movie was limited, and thus, they were not given major roles to act. However, Casablanca takes a different approach to this notion, as a black man is given a role next to the lead character and helps him (Rick) to make critical decisions throughout the movie. This adds the many pluses to Casablanca (Jeff, 1992).


Casablanca is a romantic melodrama, which tells the story of two men vying for love of the same woman at a period when the world was in chaos. During this period the world came to confront its ugly side in the fight between democracy and totalitarianism. It is a movie that did almost everything right from the musical score to the suspense and drama. From the casting to the witty script, coupled by the memorable screenplay and cinematography, the movie put the United Nations on the silver screen with its theme of subordinating personal desires to the task of defeating fascism, which resonated well with the world body. Indeed, Casablanca is a classic movie which provides the twenty-first century world with an oasis of hope in a desert of capricious cruelty and senseless violence.

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