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Casablanca: What about Ilsa?


AndreaDoria
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I would never try to talk anyone out of thinking this is the greatest movie of all time, I know it's sacred ground and I do like many things about it.  I just don't know what to make of Ilsa.  Does she love Rick more than her heroic husband?  Did she ever love her husband?  That last night in Paris, was there some reason why she didn't make an excuse to run out for dinner ingredients and get a runner to take a message to the train station?   In the end, why does she allow Rick to make her moral decisions for her?  Does anyone else find her character's passive demeanor a bit irritating?

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Well, it IS possible to love more than one person at the same time. My take has always been that Ilsa loves Rick, but she is committed to her husband's cause -- and would do anything within her power to advance it. But Rick lets her off the hook with his noble sacrifice at the airport.

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Yes, I agree that you can love two people at once but it seems like if you loved your husband and one other the person, then the husband would surely win, do to all sorts of reasons like vows, history,  loyalty etc.  Usually someone doesn't break up a marriage when they still love their spouse and she seemed to love him.

 

Your last line is the one that bothers me and it seems to be the main theme of the movie. " She stayed with her husband because of Rick's sacrifice." How can Rick decide the moral fate of another human being for them?  She doesn't belong to Rick so how can he sacrifice her?  Is her own moral fiber so weak that she stands passively by while the men in her life decide who she will belong to?  

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To be fair to Ilsa, she does send Rick a letter while he's waiting for her at the train station.  The letter is fairly vague, it just tells Rick that she's not going with him and that she can't see him again.  She requests that he not ask questions but to remember that she loves him.

 

That's why Rick gives Ilsa somewhat of a cold shoulder when he sees her again in Casablanca, because she broke his heart without giving him any explanation.  It is only after the fact that Ilsa explains to Rick that she left him because she discovered that her husband, Victor was alive and in hiding.  While she was with Rick, she had presumed that he had been killed while trying to escape from a concentration camp.  While I am sure that Rick and Ilsa were in love, I am not sure whether Ilsa and Victor were in love.  I can believe that Victor was in love with Ilsa.  I am not sure as to the other way around.  I do believe that she cared about him. I can see how if you assume your partner has been killed, you'd eventually try to move on.  Which is what Ilsa did.  She met and fell in love with Rick.  When she found out Victor was still alive, she returned to him.  Whether she returned to Victor out of love or out of a sense of commitment, I am not sure.

 

However, she was ready to shoot Rick for the letters of transit, which I'm not sure if she would do so if she wanted to stay with him.  Ilsa to me seemed somewhat torn as to what she wanted to do.  I'm sure she didn't expect to run into Rick again when she was hiding out in Casablanca.  Seeing him probably rekindled the feelings she had for him when they were together.  I don't think Rick "made" the decision for Ilsa because she was passive, I think he was stepping aside so that Ilsa and Victor could stay together.  While he somewhat made up her mind for her, he did so in a very noble and gallant way.  He's allowing her to avoid the stress that she probably went through a few years prior when she was trying to make up her mind as to whether to meet Rick at the train station. 

 

Besides if Rick hadn't stepped aside and let Victor stay with Ilsa, we wouldn't have the famous romantic scene at the airport.

 

Ilsa doesn't bother me.  I think she's just a very confused woman who has inadvertently stepped into a love triangle.

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  Does anyone else find her character's passive demeanor a bit irritating?

 

Ilsa was the type of girl who was more beautiful than smart.

 

She should  have been honest with Rick in Paris and told him on that last day that she just found out her husband was still alive.

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I think some here are over-thinking Ilsa and what she was facing and how she handled it.  The plot was advanced in such a way as to be plausible.  Plausible, not ironclad. 

 

Ilsa admits her ambivalence about any romantic passion for Victor several times in several scenes, seeming supportive and caring, yet she's conflicted. It is easy for me to conclude it is about the stress of being a refugee. Of course, there's more to it. Then there's Rick. She shows cordialness, then contriteness, then detachment, then hostility to Rick with each building scene.  It is Rick she's in love with, and it's out of duty that she has an idol-worship toward Victor, an affection that she works hard to develop through devotion. 

 

Ilsa:  "And she looked up to him and worshipped him, with a feeling she supposed was love."

 

In the relationship of Rick and Ilsa, there were "rules" between them that they followed during their affair. In the flashback, the Epsteins (main writers) get this across with the scene in Ilsa's apartment (we know it's hers because it's so girly). They both left their lives as vague as possible.  In time of war and people disappearing overnight against their will, this too seems a plausible setup.  At the time of the flashback in the movie, we know less about what's happened than Bogie.  So even the scene in La belle Aurore we see a foreshadowing, but it is all from Rick's perspective.

 

The vagueness of Ilsa's letter to Rick has a subtext that maybe even Ilsa, at that moment, wasn't sure of what happened to Victor. Or, if maybe she did, she was in no position at the moment to be sharing details of her marriage and VIctor's whereabouts.  If her note had fallen into the wrong hands, it is vague enough for others to not understand.  With the Gestapo and SS about, I think I would be vague in my hand carried notes too.

 

As far as shooting Rick for the Letters of Transit, I am not as certain of her lethel-ness.  Intention? Maybe. To actually do it?  No, Rick knew better--that's why he challenged her.

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I would never try to talk anyone out of thinking this is the greatest movie of all time, I know it's sacred ground and I do like many things about it.  I just don't know what to make of Ilsa.  Does she love Rick more than her heroic husband?  Did she ever love her husband?  That last night in Paris, was there some reason why she didn't make an excuse to run out for dinner ingredients and get a runner to take a message to the train station?   In the end, why does she allow Rick to make her moral decisions for her?  Does anyone else find her character's passive demeanor a bit irritating?

 

I recommend watching The Women (1939) to get the attitudes and mindset of women and their roles in society of the 1930s-1940s. When you state,  "Why does she allow Rick to make her moral decisions for her?"  it sounds like you are attaching current sensibilities to a society of 70 years ago.  Consider that she's moving her way across northern Africa with a man who is on the run from authorities, I don't know if I would consider Ilsa's demeanor as passive.  Beaten down, worn out. just functioning day to day is more like it to me.

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I just finished watching it a second time and this time I liked it better and had more sympathy for Ilsa. For one thing, this time, thanks to her line, "Ten years ago I would have been having a brace put on my teeth,"  I realized she was still  very young.  I had guessed she was in her late thirties.  I also heard her tell Rick to think for her, so I guess that excuses him for doing just that.

 

She did say that the same day they were supposed to get on the train she found out Lazlo was alive, so I still don't get why her letter couldn't have said, "I just found out my husband was still alive."  It would have saved Rick from a lot of hurt and bitterness.

 

I'm still not ready to call it the best movie ever made, like our esteemed host, but I guess it is very good.

 

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  it sounds like you are attaching current sensibilities to a society of 70 years ago.

Might be hard to believe but, there was a time when if you were legally married in a church, you took it seriously. When she was in love with Rick, she thought her husband was dead. Remember, the war had been on for a while in Europe. Lots of people were dying. You had to leave those memories behind and move on to survive. She thought she had found love again with Rick.

 

Then when Victor is found to be alive she is caught on the fence. As was posted, she was just going day by day. As the man said " The problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans" She is not thinking about her love life in that moment.

 

If Ilsa had known that "Rick" was going to come into a large fortune in gold a few years later, I'll bet she would have stayed with him. :D

From what I heard, he bounced back nicely with some young drifter named "slim" while he was running a fishing boat in the Carribbean  ;) 

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  I do believe that she cared about him. I can see how if you assume your partner has been killed, you'd eventually try to move on.  Which is what Ilsa did.  She met and fell in love with Rick.  When she found out Victor was still alive, she returned to him.  Whether she returned to Victor out of love or out of a sense of commitment, I am not sure.

 

 

 

 

 I can believe that Victor was in love with Ilsa.  I am not sure as to the other way around.  I do believe that she cared about him. I can see how if you assume your partner has been killed, you'd eventually try to move on.  Which is what Ilsa did.  She met and fell in love with Rick.  When she found out Victor was still alive, she returned to him.  Whether she returned to Victor out of love or out of a sense of commitment, I am not sure.

 

 

It can be argued that as Rick watched Ilsa choose commitment over her own selfish love interest, he made his own mind to do the same and take a side in the conflict. And once he decided to do, he would be best working undercover. Remember, this character had already sold arms in prior conflicts. And he could not have Ilsa with him doing that sort of business. And knowing its safer for her to be with Victor, he had the letters printed with his name.

 

Say what you want about the movie but, no film has as many great quotes ! 

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I recommend watching The Women (1939) to get the attitudes and mindset of women and their roles in society of the 1930s-1940s. When you state,  "Why does she allow Rick to make her moral decisions for her?"  it sounds like you are attaching current sensibilities to a society of 70 years ago.  Consider that she's moving her way across northern Africa with a man who is on the run from authorities, I don't know if I would consider Ilsa's demeanor as passive.  Beaten down, worn out. just functioning day to day is more like it to me.

I've seen "The Women," and about a hundred other films of the 1920's through 40's.  One of the things I love about them are the strong women.  Think of Bette Davis at the end of "Now Voyager," laying down the rules to Paul Henried  (no sex, just cigarettes.)  Think of Mildred Pierce, Stella Dallas, or Lana Turner in "Green Dolphin Street,"  none of them allowed the men in their lives to make moral decisions for them.  Women at that time may have let the men decide where they would live and what kind of car they would buy, but women were always responsible for their own morals.  Look at Jane Eyre in Victorian times,  She loved Rochester deeply but she wouldn't allow him to talk her into living with him outside of marriage.

 

Whether or not to stay with her husband or leave him for another man is  a decision regarding the rest of her life and if she was religious it would have meant even more. I can't imagine any strong woman allowing someone else to make for her whether it was seventy years ago or not. 

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I just finished watching it a second time and this time I liked it better and had more sympathy for Ilsa. For one thing, this time, thanks to her line, "Ten years ago I would have been having a brace put on my teeth,"  I realized she was still  very young.  I had guessed she was in her late thirties.  I also heard her tell Rick to think for her, so I guess that excuses him for doing just that.

 

She did say that the same day they were supposed to get on the train she found out Lazlo was alive, so I still don't get why her letter couldn't have said, "I just found out my husband was still alive."  It would have saved Rick from a lot of hurt and bitterness.

 

I'm still not ready to call it the best movie ever made, like our esteemed host, but I guess it is very good.

 

Like Casablanca100views said, her letter probably had to be vague enough so that it didn't get intercepted by the Nazis and put Victor's life in danger.  I'm sure that the Nazis found out that Victor was missing from the concentration camp.  He was also part of the Resistance movement, and by proxy, Ilsa was part of the Resistance movement too.  I'm sure that the Nazis kept dossiers on those whom they suspected were against them and actively involved in campaigns to thwart their efforts.  Ilsa didn't want to give away Victor's whereabouts in her letter to Rick just in case the letter were to be intercepted. 

 

I had assumed that Ilsa was in her late 20s and Rick I think it is stated in the film that he's 37 even though he looks older.

 

I don't think any movie can be called "the greatest of all time."  That's quite the claim to be made about anything.  It's all a matter of personal preference. 

 

I think what I like about Casablanca is the mood of the film and the characters.  Rick's club is a happening place and is the center of all the action in Casablanca.  The Germans are there, the French are there, everyone.  The moment of the film when half the club is singing the French anthem and other half is singing the German anthem is a very powerful moment in the film.  Claude Rains' Louis is hilarious and a great friend/foil for Bogart's Rick.  Sam is also great character and provides one of the most romantic moments in film--when he sings "As Time Goes By."

 

The film has so many memorable quotes and scenes that over the years, it has grown to become a symbol of the Golden Era.

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All joking aside, some women are very unpredictable. There are things that happened in my life that nobody would believe if they saw it in a movie. If this was real life it could be only Ilsa could explain it as there may be more than we know to the story.

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 I can't imagine any strong woman allowing someone else to make for her whether it was seventy years ago or not. 

Women (people ) exhibit strength in all sorts of ways. She could have just ran away from the whole situation altogether.Or she could have just melted and been useless to anyone.  With either man , there was danger. Both Rick and Victor were wanted by the nazis. Just by standing by either of them is strength. If either was arrested, she would have been also.

 

I wouldn't call her weak. Just she went from young to thrown into the middle of a world wide disaster. Not sure if any weak person could deal with that.

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I just finished watching it a second time and this time I liked it better and had more sympathy for Ilsa. For one thing, this time, thanks to her line, "Ten years ago I would have been having a brace put on my teeth,"  I realized she was still  very young.  I had guessed she was in her late thirties.  I also heard her tell Rick to think for her, so I guess that excuses him for doing just that.

 

She did say that the same day they were supposed to get on the train she found out Lazlo was alive, so I still don't get why her letter couldn't have said, "I just found out my husband was still alive."  It would have saved Rick from a lot of hurt and bitterness.

 

I'm still not ready to call it the best movie ever made, like our esteemed host, but I guess it is very good.

 

Casablanca forces the viewer to pay attention. the Epstein bros like to throw in some on the nose lines, but they wouldn't put them in the actual scene it's referencing, it usually about a third person in another scene later or as foreshadowing. 

 

Ilsa's age at the time of the things happening in Casablanca would be closer to 23.  She is a good decade+ younger than Laszlo, who is about 35. This takes in an estimate of meeting Victor maybe 5 years earlier and the time of the Czech resistance in reaction to the Austrian fall to Germany and the Sudetenland was next.  Why Victor was in Oslo is anybody's guess.   

 

When Ilsa's asks Rick to think for her, that gets an unexpected laugh from the audience now.  I dunno, maybe we should soften up the audience with the Stevens and Wyler newsreels of German death camps beforehand to put them in the wartime frame of mind.

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When Ilsa's asks Rick to think for her, that gets an unexpected laugh from the audience now.  I dunno, maybe we should soften up the audience with the Stevens and Wyler newsreels of German death camps beforehand to put them in the wartime frame of mind.

I think that would make it seem even more implausible that she would consider leaving her heroic husband for a bar owner. 

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 ...Say what you want about the movie but, no film has as many great quotes ! 

 

 

BINGO!!!

 

And one of my new favorites after watching this great film again tonight for maybe the 30th time is:

 

6eeea16522a79e595533a411fce5902d.jpg

 

"It would take a miracle for you to get out of Casablanca...

and the Germans have outlawed miracles."

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I think that would make it seem even more implausible that she would consider leaving her heroic husband for a bar owner. 

She didn't.

 

We don't know if she would have actually got on the plane with Rick.She was just surprised that Rick would make this particular decision.

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I've seen "The Women," and about a hundred other films of the 1920's through 40's.  One of the things I love about them are the strong women.  Think of Bette Davis at the end of "Now Voyager," laying down the rules to Paul Henried  (no sex, just cigarettes.)  Think of Mildred Pierce, Stella Dallas, or Lana Turner in "Green Dolphin Street,"  none of them allowed the men in their lives to make moral decisions for them.  Women at that time may have let the men decide where they would live and what kind of car they would buy, but women were always responsible for their own morals.  Look at Jane Eyre in Victorian times,  She loved Rochester deeply but she wouldn't allow him to talk her into living with him outside of marriage.

 

Whether or not to stay with her husband or leave him for another man is  a decision regarding the rest of her life and if she was religious it would have meant even more. I can't imagine any strong woman allowing someone else to make for her whether it was seventy years ago or not. 

 

that's a pivotal scene for Ilsa, She loves Rick, she knows what he means to her, but her line isn't that capitulating.  

 

Step back from the words a moment.  Ilsa has come to get the Letters of Transit. and she grabs a pistol as a persuader.  Why?  Remember the convos she has with Victor in the hotel before.  She learns Rich has the letters and Rick puts Ilsa on the spot as why he won't give them up.and does it through Victor.  Victor undeniably loves Ilsa, and he understands her.  His empathy is palpable and it is just more pressure (and her guilt) on Ilsa to do something about it. 

 

So, she impulsively leaves the hotel to confront Rick-- then seeing him, he's looking at her ("Here's looking at you, kid.") and she is right back in Paris.  She loves Rick, now what can she do?

 

It's funny, I laughed when you wrote about the decision regarding the rest of her life.  Remember, there's the Gestapo chasing them! !   These are refugees uncertain of the next day.

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Hey, it's the nicest bar in town!  Everyone Comes to Rick's! 

I would go to Rick's.  It looks like a fun place.  Live piano music.  Interesting characters.  Good drinks.  I'd probably station myself at a table near Sam so I could listen to the fun jazz music.  

 

Say who's got trouble?

We got trouble!

How much trouble?

Too much trouble!

Well now don't you frown

Just knuckle down

and knock on wood

 

(Knock! Knock! Knock!)

 

I'd just stay away from the roulette tables, they seem fixed.  Lol.

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