An analysis of the ‘railway station sequence’ from the movie Casablanca

The salient techniques used in the train station sequence evoke emotions and empathy from the audience. Examples of the techniques employed in this particular sequence include; mise-en-scene, editing, cinematography and sound. Mise-en-scene which was originally drawn from the field of theater refers to aspects such as setting, make-up and costume, stage movements and lighting. In general mise-en-scene comprises of every aspect and actions that take place in front of a camera and is released as the final shot. Mise-en-scene can provide important information to a critic as to when and where the film was shot based on unique features such as the costume and make-up worn by the characters.

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Cinematography on the other hand refers to capturing moving images on a medium or film. It involves the process of manipulation and development of images. The cinematographer should work closely with the director in order to achieve effective shots so that the viewer is in a position to view the fore-ground, mid and back-ground respectively. The other stylistic element is editing which refers to the coordination of events in one shot with those in another. Combining these shots together through the editing process leads to creation of scenes. Lastly sound is an important aspect in film. Sound is expressed in three ways in a film this can be in form of music, speech and noise. The music for instance is used to indicate the mood in a particular scene.

Having defined the various stylistic elements in film production above we therefore set to analyze the effects of these styles in the train station scene in the movie Casablanca. The railway station scene is presented to the viewers inform of a flashback which occurs when Rick is drinking a lone in the bar after everybody else had left and the bar had closed for the day. The viewers are exposed to the bubbling love affair between Rick and llsa back in Paris. This smooth encounter between the two characters is brought to a grinding halt when news come through that the German army is about to capture Paris. This revelation compels Rick to plan to flee Paris but before that he proposes to Ilsa who seems reserved about the arrangement. It is then that they plan to meet at the train station the following day so that they can flee together to Marseille.

The following day at the train station Rick waits innocently and faithfully for Ilsa to show up, besides it is raining. It is at this point that our attention is drawn to the style of mise-en-scene.  Here we consider the make-up and costume worn by this particular character, the lighting and stage movements. The director of this particular movie chose the train station to be the stage or background in which this particular scene took place. The fact that Rick is waiting for Ilsa in the rain without taking into account its effects portrays him as a committed and determined lover who is willing to brave the odds for the sake of what he feels for the love of his life Ilsa.

The director is able to elicit pity and sympathy from the audience by tactfully employing the style of mise-en-scene. The viewer cannot help it but sympathize with Rick when Sam arrives with a note from Ilsa which explains that she is not going to Marseille with him (Rick) and besides she does not want to see him again. The train station was initially supposed to be the point where Rick’s dream of marrying Ilsa was supposed to begin being a reality but on the contrary it turns out to be the point where the very dream is shuttered. The presence of rain at the station on this particular day is not by coincidence but it is symbolic of the tears that Ilsa sheds for her love for Rick though she understands perfectly that she cannot spend the rest of her life with him.

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 Besides emotions of anxiety and fear are elicited in the viewer as they watch Rick waiting in the rain for Ilsa one cannot help it but imagine what Ricks reaction would be like if Ilsa fails to show up. Rick is forcefully pushed into the train indicating that he was not willing to leave without his love. Rick’s desperation draws empathy and pity from the audience. The foul mood at the train station too is symbolic of the sad mood that reigns throughout this scene. It spells doom and misfortune to the relationship shared by the two characters.

The other stylistic device that has been employed in this scene is cinematography which involves manipulation and development of images. We are able to see Rick waiting for Ilsa at the train station while it rains. The image of a determined Rick elicits emotions of anxiety in the audience as he waits with strong assurance that his love will show up so that they can finally run away together. Sam’s appearance instead of Ilsa brings suspense to the viewer, his message to Rick in form of a small note drops like a bombshell on Rick and the viewer thereby bringing a feeling of failure and despair. Emotions of betrayal register on both Rick and the viewer.

Editing which involve combining of scenes so as to create a chronological flow of events is also an important style which has been incorporated in the creating of this film. It has been used artistically to evoke emotions in the audience as the movie rolls on. The train sequence is a flash back as stated earlier, therefore the art of incorporating a flash back in a story line requires competent editing. The main aim of the flash back is to expose to the viewer the earlier love relationship which was shared by Rick and llsa therefore incorporating the train station sequence in the story line of the movie without distorting the story line qualifies as smart editing. This aspect contributes to the understanding of the movie and besides that it evokes mixture of emotions among the viewers. One might feel sorry for Rick due to the fact that Ilsa lied to him yet she was married before and did not mention it to him, on the other hand one might sympathize with Ilsa because she had to make the tough decision of abandoning her love due to her commitment to her first husband.

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The element of sound has also been employed in the production of this film. The sound track played in the background as Rick reads the note with the heart breaking news, of how the love of his life is not coming along and she does not intend to see him again presents a sad mood the audience feels Ricks desperation as he is pushed into the train by Sam. The noise that is created by the train as it hoots and zooms by is significant of a realistic environment.

In a nut shell the encompassing of all these techniques have contributed in the effective delivery of the story line in the movie and to be precise in the railway station sequence. The viewer is able to identify with the characters through these styles and in the process they are engaged and this can be ascertained by the eliciting of different kind of emotions.

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