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"the past is, by definition, something people have lost."

1.06.2009

Casablanca dramatizes archetypes. The main one is the imperative to move from disengagement and cynicism to commitment. The question is why Casablanca does this more effectively than other films. Several other Bogart films of the same period -- Passage to Marseilles, To Have and Have Not, Key Largo -- enact exactly the same conversation. But the Rick character does not simply go from disengagement to engagement but from bitter and truculent denial of his past to a recovery and reignition of the past. And that is very moving, particularly because it is also associated with Oedipal drama. But there is also a third myth narrative, a story about coming to terms with the past. Rick had this wonderful romance; he also had his passionate commitment. It seems gone forever. But you can get it back. That is a very powerful mythic story, because everybody has lost something, and the past is, by definition, something people have lost. This film enables people to feel that they have redeemed the past and recovered it, and yet without nostalgia. Rick doesn't want to be back in Paris. And the plot is brilliantly constructed so that these three myths are not three separate tales, but one story with three myths rushing down the same channel.

- Sociologist Todd Gitlin

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