"Casablanca:" A New Perspective


Throughout history, the film industry has seen many directing styles and
techniques. The early part of the 20th century saw a factory style of film
production, but as the years went by, director\'s began to employ new and untried
techniques in their pictures. One such technique which these director\'s
implemented was a new approach to the use of the camera and camera angles.
"Casablanca," an Academy Award winning film of 1942 saw director Michael Curtiz
manipulate the camera in ways others had not. He uses the close-up, point-of-
view shot, and creative shot motivation methods in his film starring Humphrey
Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, to create an American cinema classic.
The first camera technique Curtiz uses to help narrate the film is the
close-up shot. The close-up can effectively convey the story to the viewer
without the use of excessive dialogue. In this instance, the viewer is
introduced to the main character, Rick, through the use of the close-up. The
first scene in "Rick\'s Cafe," shows people gambling and making illegal deals to
leave Casablanca. An employee of the cafe bring a check to a man seated at a
chess table to sign. The signature reads, "OK. Rick." By using this shot, the
director makes clear to the reader, without any dialogue, that the man signing
the check is Rick. This technique, however, is just the first of many used by
Curtiz.
The point-of-view shot is used by director Michael Curtiz to place the
audience directly into the action. By placing the camera at the exact location
and height of the character, the viewer of the film is \'inserted\' into the
character\'s body, making the scene more personal. Curtiz uses a slight
variation of this type of camera placement when Capt. Renault and Rick are
having a discussion about Victor Laslo\'s arrival in Casablanca. The camera is
placed just above and aft of Renault\'s shoulder. The audience can now see
Renault\'s body reactions, as well as having Renault\'s perspective on Rick\'s
response. In this episode, the point-of-view shot helps to set the viewer into
the action, which will in turn motivate a better response from the viewer.
A third camera technique used by the director is not a camera angle, but
is shot motivation. Shot motivation creates a purpose for the camera to move to
another action. For example, as Major Strasse and his men enter Rick\'s cafe,
the camera pans from left to right, following them. As the camera moves right,
Rick is spotted sitting at a table and the camera stops. This example of shot
motivation, shows how one action can lead the camera to the beginning of another
scene. This technique of shot motivation is an effective one which is found in
many current pictures as well.
The close-up, point-of-view shot and shot motivation technique help the
director to narrate the film and to keep the audience more interested in the
story. Michael Curtiz uses these methods is "Casablaca" to add to this award
winning film, and to make it a classic in America cinema.

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