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Films have evolved over time. Whether it is the shift in techniques or the change in directing style, the development is certainly apparent. Casablanca (1942) is written by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch, directed by Michael Curtiz, and starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. It is considered one of Hollywood’s iconic movies as it creates a great balance between humor, suspense, and romance. Casablanca is a multi-layered film that belongs to the film noir of the 1940’s. Curtiz’s use of camera angles such us close-ups, point of view, panning, Wide shots, dolly and tracking creates wonderful movement within the film. These camera shots help guide the viewer’s understanding of the story’s development and direct their attention to what is happening. This paper will discuss and further explore the various camera angles and movement techniques that were implemented within the film and provide examples on each.

At the beginning of the 20th century, according to Borwell D., Thompson K., Staiger J. (1985), “Advanced capitalism characterized the economy after World War I. This characterization is applicable to film industry.” (p. 320). Studio owners that owned sets also bought theaters, thereby monopolizing the business. Having their actors under several-year extended contracts enabled them to produce a large number of movies yearly. That was known as factory-oriented style of production of film. This movie was set in the Moroccan city of Casablanca but was actually filmed in the Warner Bros Studios. The controllable set allowed Curtiz to manipulate the environment for his own advantage, or in other words, to convey the environment he wanted. His use of a variety of camera angles and framing allowed the viewer to be part of the story.

Camera angles and shots in the movie helped the viewer foreshadow which path the story is going to take and establish a connection between the characters and the plot. They also act as a catalyst that motivates a positive response from the viewer while noticing the development in the story. One of the initial camera techniques implemented in the movie was the close up shot. It occurred at the beginning of the movie, as the police rounded suspects while a man with a mess of papers attempted to flee the scene. The police ended up shooting him to death. Then we see a police officer going down next to the body and pulling out papers from his pocket. It turns out to be a free France flier which is propaganda for the freedom of France, which establishes the context of the movie. The close-up shot mentioned was used to emphasize the use of a specific vantage point, which in this case, is from the point of view of the audience and not the officer.

A second and very different close-up shot was used at the opening scene of Rick’s café, where groups of people were gambling and making shady deals. Afterwards, a waiter brings a check to an individual (at that point, unknown by the audience) who signs the check with the phrase ok rick, revealing the identity of this individual without the use of any dialogue or narration. A repetitive pattern arises in terms of the close up technique; the close ups are designed for the audience rather than merely focusing on the characters. Michael Curtiz made sure that the audience was part of the story.

Another important camera technique used was the point of view technique, to allow the viewer to both observe the characters and be part of the scene. The placement of the camera plays a huge role in determining what the viewer is looking at. Here, the positioning of the camera at the exact height of the character allows the viewers to be implanted within the scene, making the scene more effective and personalized. Curtiz uses this technique in the movie when Rick and Louis are having a conversation about Lazlo coming to Casablanca and his rumored arrival. The placement of the camera here, above of Louis’ left shoulder, is crucial; we get to witness Rick’s reaction to the news as well as Louis’ counter reaction to Rick’s reply. The interesting variation Curtiz made on the point of view technique was used as a method of motivation to instigate a reaction from the audience.

A panning shot, also one of the major techniques used in shooting the film, is a continuous shot that allows the audience to view the entire environment from one point to another. As Gianetti (2011) mentions that pan shots tend to unify the space and the connectedness of people and objects within that space. However, Curtiz added his own variation to a panning shot. In one scene, Strasser enters Rick’s café as a regular customer. However, to foreshadow an arising conflict between Rick and Strasser, Curtiz allows the camera to pan from Strasser but it stops at Rick. This tension filled shot does not pan around the café, as to highlight the existence of a conflict between both characters.

Michael Curtiz utilizes an establishing wide shot when Rick first meets Lazlo. This type of shot focuses on all individuals sitting at a table. In that scene, when Rick begins speaking to Ilsa, the angle of the shot changes to more of a tighter wide angle shot, indicating that everyone else seated at the table is insignificant in that scene. As soon as the conversation began between Rick and Ilsa, the camera shifts into a close up tight shot on their faces. Here, a close-up shot is used to reinforce the existence of an emotional relationship between the characters. The viewer’s attention is directed to Rick and Ilsa as the ones driving the action. They seem to be at the center of most events

As for the final scene of the movie, the camerawork used there is an example of great camera movement; the same action is shown from different angles – before and after the plane takes off. There is a slower tracking (dolly) shot as the plane starts to move preparing to fly. Finally, there is dolly movement as the plane flies above Rick and Louis and we see it in the air. The last scene with the tracking and dolly shots of the plane emphasize its stature, as it’s the only way to escape as its taking Ilsa and Lazlo to freedom. The closing scene as Rick and Louis walkaway, as Kolker (2011) mentioned the closing scene as the camera dolly’s out and smoke appears behind the characters; that is one of the most memorable endings in movie history.

Camera angles were not only used to reveal different relationships between people or to direct the viewer’s attention. They were also used to convey the importance of certain symbols and objects of a significant presence in the movie. When Lazlo met at the bar with a man who was trying to sell him a ring, a close-up on the ring showed a double cross symbol on it which stood for Joan of Arc, a symbol for France. On another note, an important object in the movie was Sam’s piano. In addition to the placement of the piano at the center of the café, guests seemed to always want to be near it. It created a fun mood that took away their worries. It is also a symbol for Rick’s love for Ilsa. The piano seems to always be present in the frame when a wide shot was taken of Rick’s café or when Rick are having flashbacks of him and Ilsa in Paris. A wide shot of the spotlight reinforces its symbolism as people are being watched all the time.

According to Keaney (2003), “Casablanca is a genuine American masterpiece of romance, mystery, and intrigue, with Boghart and Bergman at its center as the star crossed lovers and Henried as the unselfish patriot” (p. 77), Casablanca is a melodrama during World War II where everything in the world is changing, including technique and style. The film takes place before the US chose a side in the war and prior to Pearl Harbor. In fact, the studio did not expect the film to be a huge success. However, on the contrary, Casablanca is one of the most iconic films in American history. The wide range of camera angles and shooting techniques Curtiz used only added to its success, involving the viewers in the movie and constantly attracting their attention. He created context using close ups, in addition to taking into consideration the audience’s vantage point as a key element. He used the point-of view technique that allows the audience to be part of the scene as well as observe the reactions of the characters involved in the scene. He used a panning shot in order to indicate a change in action. An establishing wide shot used in the movie was then changed it into a tighter frame to emphasize the idea that Ilsa and Rick are always at the center of events. The final scene of the film using the dolly movement to emphasize the stature of the plane and what it stands for. Focusing on the camera angles and shots creates a variety of movements as the story develops