“Casablanca,” has been deemed “the greatest love story of all time” by many professional critics and film goers alike. To receive and maintain such outstanding reviews, the basic elements of the film must be scrutinized by a higher standard- especially when compared to the plethora of phenomenal love stories found this day and age. Aristotle set many of the guidelines we use today to determine what separates the average tragedies from the exceptional. I believe, because of its lack of complexity and predictable nature, “Casablanca” fails to meet its claim to greatness.
When the plot of the film is broken down we see the general over-used “star crossed lover” plot found in stories dating back to Shakespearian times. Rick, the leading male in the film, falls in love with Ilsa, the beautiful and mysterious female lead while in Paris, France. Tragedy hits Paris and they are both forced to leave. Ilsa agrees to run away with Rick because of her great love for him. (Predictable. ) Of course, Ilsa never shows up and Rick finds out that she has chosen to leave him through a letter. (Predictable. Several years later they are reunited in unoccupied land called Casablanca found in Africa. Ilsa shows up with her husband Victor Lazlo, in Rick’s cafe. Soon he learns she was married to this man at the time of their first meeting in Paris. (Predictable. ) Rick also learns of their desperation to leave Casablanca, however because of restriction put on Lazlo they are stuck without the ability to leave. Rick finds a way to help them escape and says his final goodbye to Ilsa, forever. (How incredibly predictable! ) Aristotle states that it is necessary for successful tragedies to have a certain level of complexity.
Because this story has none, I would claim it isn’t the “greatest love story of all time. ” The characters in this film were relatable and I found that their emotions were consistent throughout the film. Aristotle speaks on how characters need to be idealized and well developed. There was a disconnect between the audience and Captain Louis Renault. Renault, at the very end of the film, allows for Rick to hold him at gun point and for Lazlo and Ilsa to escape… but why? At the end of the film, that certainly isn’t what a great story would leave its audience questioning.
Aristotle speaks vaguely on how thought is necessary as well. I would interpret that to mean theme. “Casablanca” seems to exemplify Man vs. Himself. Throughout the film Rick struggles with accepting that his greatest love was dishonest and left him at a time when he thought they were to be married and live happily ever after. We see him become more selfless as the story progresses and in the end, he lets her go. That decision was incredibly difficult for him and yet he walks away with confidence. He overcame his natural self. Diction was also one of the six elements outlined by Aristotle.
Without diction, the characters would be lacking in sincerity and that is, what I believe to be, the only logical reason why anyone would deem “Casablanca” to be truly great. When Ilsa’s professed her love for Rick in the beginning of the film, it was believable. Rick speaks with a naive voice in the beginning and over time he recognized that naivety and seems to grow in wisdom. He sees that love doesn’t always prevail. Sam, the piano man in Rick’s cafe, provided an atmosphere that suits the time and setting of the film. Aristotle briefly mentions its importance but it certainly hold relevance.
When watching a film produced in 1942 in the year 2012, having timely music helps the audience understand the innocence of the times, the traditional beliefs of the characters and the overall atmosphere of their lifetime. “Casablanca” chose their music very well and it painted a great picture of the era. Aristotle recognized spectacle as the last and least important of the necessary elements for successful tragedy. The costuming and set designs were both appropriate and well accomplished. It added to the atmosphere and general authenticity of the film.
The audience could easily recognize the propriety of each character and that allowed for a better understanding of social rank and authority when necessary. Given that only two of the six elements outlined by Aristotle were thoroughly accomplished, I stand by my initial analysis in saying this is not one of the greatest love stories of all time. The over-all lack of complexity and predictability detracted from the film’s potential and cheapened the quality of the tragedy. Perhaps the American Film Industry should watch “Tangled” and learn a few things about a great love story!