Casablanca (1942)-Analysis of Lighting pt. 1
The Lights of Casablanca
-An indepth look into the lighting techniques employed and the context in which they were used, caught between film noir and the classic Hollywood style.
Casablanca (1942), directed by Michael Curtiz, is a perennial favorite, depicting unique
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman
Film noir is a much debated term and it depends what definition you choose as to what exactly constitutes a film noir. Casablanca isn’t typically considered a film noir, it is on occasion listed as proto-noir (Biesen 82) or as an early example (Grant 237). These references are due to the overall dark feel and creative use of lighting. One of the prevailing influences for this dark trend was from cinematographer, Arthur Edeson. He had previously shot The Maltese Falcon (1941),
Both movies shot by Arthur Edeson
Casablanca features many of the qualities of a classic film noir, (the feel is very dark and lighting plays a prominent role) but it doesn’t fit because noir normally affects other parts of a film; i.e. mood, and Casablanca doesn’t fit in this regard. It’s plot and attitude are different from the dark and pessimistic views of human nature normally found in crime dramas, the classic noirs. Disregarding plot and key themes and just taking into the visuals into account however, I think it qualifies just because of the low key lighting, partially obscured faces and odd, almost eerie lighting.
Notice the lamp throwing odd shadows
The lighting contributes to the plot and themes in many ways and affects the mood of the film as a whole. The movie starts out with decidedly brighter shots then transitions to darker scenes toward the end of the film.
Scenes showing Chairoscuro
Fog Enveloping Airfield- Final Scene
Rick’s flashback to Paris is the one of the only legitimately bright sequences in the entire film and this helps the viewer understand the happiness that Rick and Ilsa enjoyed there. Rick is sitting, drunk and in the dark reminiscing about the good times he enjoyed there. This sudden switch from dark to light shows exactly how miserable he is now and how happy he was in Paris with Ilsa. The last scene in Paris, where Rick is waiting in the rain for the train, the overcast clouds and dimmed lighting on the scene foreshadow Ilsa not showing up. It follows the established pattern where light scenes are happier and dark ones, more melancholy. Of particular interest is the sign in the Paris café, a shadow on a white background, giving the overall scene a bright, joyful tone.
Paris vs. Casablanca
This post is continued in PART 2