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The Hero and Anti-Hero in Casablanca

Casablanca is a very popular classic in which the audience is enlightened with a colourful combination of characters. The two prominent characters in the film, Rick Blane and Victor Lazlo, have a unique role because they portray the anti-hero and hero. These two character traits are critical because they differentiate the two main characters in the film. But, even though the anti-hero, Rick Blane, and hero, Victor Lazlo, have very different character personas, at the comparative level the main difference is that the anti-hero is driven by passion and the hero is driven by reason. This prominent difference is evident in their political beliefs, their relationships with Ilsa, and in the director’s portrayal of their inner feelings.

Rick Blane and Victor Lazlo are individuals with very strong political beliefs. Even though both characters demonstrate that they have an interest in politics, they have different driving forces within them that bring forth their interests. In Rick’s case, he exhibits an interest in politics that is centered around his feelings for the woman he loves. For example, when Rick was together with Ilsa in Paris he was very ambitious with his political beliefs. He was visualizing resistance and freedom for the French people. After tragically losing the love of his life, Rick ceased to show any political involvement or any strong political beliefs and began to worry only about his own well-being. On the other hand, Victor Lazlo is the type of character that is involved in politics for the love of politics. He is not dependent on the love of a woman to give him the strength he needed to be actively involved in politically divided situations. An example of his love for politics was when Victor began singing the “Marseilles” in the club to overpower the Nazi anthem. The overall impression given by the director, using particular clothes, hair style and physique, sends the message to the audience that Victor is a politically oriented person and Rick is a person that would likely be involved in politics to please others.

Another aspect of Rick and Victor that displays their anti-hero and hero characteristics is their relationship with Ilsa. Each has a different kind of love for Ilsa. In Rick’s case, he loves Ilsa passionately and treats her like an equal. They once were very close and cared greatly for each other. Their love is very evident in all the scenes that were focusing on their relationship. One example was when they were in Paris together at the restaurant. In Victor’s case, he loves Ilsa with a respectful nature. His love for her is not very intimate but resembles the love that would exist between two close friends. Victor needs Ilsa more for her help towards his political causes. This is evident because throughout the entire film the audience never actually sees an intimate or love filled scene between Victor and Ilsa. Also, we must not ignore Ilsa’s feelings for Rick and Victor. Ilsa treated Rick like an equal love with whom she could share her feelings. She viewed Victor more like an idol to look up to and cherish.

The audience also gets a sense of Rick and Victor’s anti-hero and hero characteristics by the director’s portrayal of their inner lives. We are openly invited into Rick’s inner life, while we find out very little about Victor’s. There are several scenes in Casablanca where the audience sees Rick drinking in the night. During these scenes Rick expresses a lot of his feelings symbolically, or verbally when Sam is around. With Victor it is almost the opposite because the audience never sees Victor alone or expressing any of his inner feelings. In fact, we find out very little about what he actually feels inside but are made well aware of his political feelings. In other words, the director portrays Victor as a shallow character with great political motivation. Furthermore, we can distinguish the director’s portrayal of their inner feelings when each character is interacting with Ilsa. When Rick is interacting with Ilsa the audience is exposed to a lot of body language, dramatic dialog, and romantic or tragic music in the background. When Victor is interacting with Ilsa we usually witness a logical conversation with little or no emotion emanating from Victor.

After examining the director’s portrayal of political views, relationships, and inner feelings of Rick and Victor we can draw the conclusion that Rick Blane, the anti-hero, was driven by passion and Victor Lazlo, the hero, was driven by reason. This was one of the key factors that contributed to the overwhelming success of this film. It was the ongoing saga of trying to pinpoint that very difference between the two men that made watching Casablanca an interesting experience.


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