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Movement Techniques In Casablanca Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1974 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Casablanca, the movie which was presented in 1943, was written by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison and was directed by Michael Curtiz. It’s an American romantic drama black and white movie by Hollywood. As for the awards that Casablanca won; it won three academy awards. It was and has always been up till now one of the most excellent films ever and had a complete accomplishment.

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Mainly the film is about a man who is cut out between his love and his good quality manner feature. The dilemma was that he had to pick one of the two hard choices. Its either he choose to be with the love of his life and help her out or to help her husband to get away from the Moroccan city (Casablanca) to carry on with his fight against the Nazis. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) owns a nightclub in Casablanca, the city, called “Rick’s Café Américain”. While the World War II was on, this cafe was like a home for all refugees who are trying to escape to America, they were obtaining illegal letters for that getaway. Shockingly, one day Rick came across the well-known revolt Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) and his wife, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), which was the woman he used to love before she left him behind when the Nazis attacked Paris. Ilsa begin again to love Rick and wants to stay with him in Casablanca, but she also wants Victor to escape to America. So she made Rick decide, and by that was the story of the film.

The Movement Technique:

Movement in filmmaking is a very important yet hard technique to achieve. Therefore, it’s not about what happens in a scene; rather it’s about how to show what is happening in the scene. There are many different ways to apply movement techniques in a film. An excellent director will want to show how indicative and significant are the movements in a dramatic scene for instance. And how can he/she make the scene effective by using the right form of movements to display and demonstrate the idea (Giannetti, 2010).

Any film that doesn’t use movement techniques is subjected to be static. Nevertheless, movement doesn’t mean drama. There are many action movies that consists movements without having drama thread. Moreover, “it is a matter of the least possible means having the greatest effect so that when violent movement is at last triggered off, it has the desired effect.” (Foss, 1992).

Camera Movements:

Camera movements have two major types: movements that follow a moving subject and the ones that are not detected by movements on the plane of actions. The first kind is mainly about following the dramatic action. On the contrary, the second kind has a significant function; where a connection is made between the items and the events. Each film has a different number of camera movements; that relies upon the time between the cuts in the movie. The shorter the time between the cuts, the fewer camera movements are needed and vice versa. Tracking is a form of camera movements, which has an extremely enormous control to generate feel and atmosphere.’ Zooming’ and ‘tracking in’ are slightly different than one another. Tracking pulls the watcher into the picture in a manner that feels nearly physical and raise the sense of presence and realism. Zooming simply brings out the detail and raises the sense that the director is playing for effects. Another approach of raising the feeling of realism in a movie is to use hand-held camera. It is frequently used to do documentary films and it gives the watcher the illusion of looking at the reality (Foss, 1992).

Camera movement is one of the main techniques any filmmaker should study and know really well in order to be able to produce a successful movie. People tend to remember what happens in a general scene more, so using different kinds of camera movement techniques in doing a film correctly will probably help more in making a better movie. In any movie, the director usually moves the camera during all the scenes for many different reasons. Camera movements could most likely means emphasizing on what’s happening in the scene or might be to catch people attention for the coming up scene. The director can use a lot of methods such as: long shots, slow-paced action, or high angles to stress a movement. Camera movements could be: smooth, choppy, lyrical, or disorienting. Besides, the movements in a scene possibly will be: naturalistic, stylized, literal, or symbolic (Giannetti, 2010).

Camera Angle:

Composition can be influenced by the angle of the shot. Cameras can be placed over or underneath the scene, to either produce high-angle-shot or a low-angle-shot. Usually, the shot that is looking down weakens the character (the object). On the contrary, the shot that is likely to be appearing upwards emphasizes the authority or control of the subject or character. The framing of a shot could be directed by the degree to which the framing is level with the horizon. Both the high angle and low angle shots are resulting from the context of the film, and not from the dictionary of camera aesthetics (Gross & Ward, 2007).

Cinematic Techniques:

The fundamentals of cinematic techniques are pan, tilt, and dolly. First, Pan: is the horizontal movement of a camera, it looks through an absolutely broad landscape which doesn’t fit a regular camera border. Second, Tilt: is the vertical movement of a camera, by pivoting up and down. Those two techniques are referred to as ‘re-framing the shot’ and are usually used to track the characters in the movement of action. Finally, Dolly: is the way the camera usually moves normally horizontally throughout the space. Another camera technique is: pulling focus; which is basically a normal technique that applies looking at items that are in diverse ranges. Focal length of a camera is mainly the zoom of the camera’s lenses. Zoom, an unnatural technique which is probably used to make effects, is the move of a framework from a wide shot to a close up without moving the camera. There are two types of zooming: slow zoom and fast zoom. The shift from one picture to another in filmmaking is called ‘transition’. For example: cut is the easiest method of transitions, which are regularly used to have harsh jumps in the moment and on space. There are three main types of transitions. First: dissolve layer, which is used to have soft transition, is having the new picture over the old one by raising the darkness of the old one until the transition is done. Second: fades, which is a type of explosive transition, usually starts and ends the scenes by shifting the colored screen or the picture gradually to a color. Finally: effects transitions are the structure of transmitting an image into another one. Some general framing expressions that could be relevant to either characters or objects are: master shot, full shot, medium shot, medium close up, close up, and an extreme close up (Vineyard).

Applying the Movement technique in the movie (Casablanca):

At the start of the movie, there was a scene that starts right after the sound of the two German messengers who were killed as they were carrying letters to transfer the MacGuffin of Casablanca. We can see how the police arrested some suspicious characters who were on the street. One of those people where a man who had papers which were not in order, so he tried to escape from the police, but was shot and killed right away. The police officer bends down to the man to look at those papers that were compressed in his hands, then passes them to the other police officer and also closer to the camera so that people can see, the papers showed that the man was a free France propaganda. We can notice how the camera had a close-up to the police officer’s hand when he was holding the papers. The papers were also on a slope of the camera, where the police cannot see them as well as we (watchers) do. That scene indicates how important it is to keep in mind the relation between the characters in the movie and the film viewers, who are watching the movie, who are the most important ones in this case.

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Another scene in Casablanca demonstrates Rick’s Café Américain, the shot at first shows the café as a whole and then the shot transfers to be only towards people who are in the café talking about escaping to America. Next, the image goes to a woman who was asking about Rick. After that, a man goes up to Rick asking him to sign an empty check, then the camera takes a closer shot at Rick while he is signing the check and then another closer shot at Rick himself. This shot emphasizes that Rick is the main character and the owner of the café.

In one of the scenes of Casablanca, right after the flash from the past of Paris, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) where talking with Rick when she first moved to Casablanca. The following shot of the movie had a right to left camera movement from the image of Rick’s face to the image of his hands, when they were tipping above the glass. The next shot was also a camera movement but here it was from the left side to the right side, where the camera was following the small walk till the right border of the frame of Sam (Dooley Wilsons). Hence, in the middle of that shot there was an open space between Sam and Rick. The set of this scene had a door that was framed by the vaulted roof which is a double aperture framing. After that, the director prepares the watcher with a visual staging when Ilsa enters the room. Immediately before she enters, the shot was on the object that was centered in front of Rick which was the bottle; he removes the bottle to pour a drink for himself thus making a clear view of the entrance. In this scene, the aim of the director of the movie was to transfer people’s attention to the entrance of the other character. Then, with having a musical background sound, Rick and Sam looks at the door while the shot was gloomy right away before Ilsa enters. After she has entered, the lighting stresses how she is enclosed with the door.

How this (movement technique) was closely connected to another technique:

Although, Casablanca is a striking example of the movement technique used in the film, cinematography technique had also a huge great part of the movie. The central concentration and all the focus of attention was directed to Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). Most of the shots were taken from her left side with a catch lights, so that her eyes can look like they are shining and mainly the entire propose was to make her face looks gloomy, gentle, and unforgettable. As for the rest of the characters and the setting, bars of shade and darkness were indicating isolation. Moreover, the crucifix, which is the cross with Jesus’ body, is a symbol of emotional confusion and of the free French forces; which were the French soldiers during the WWII who agreed to carry on the fight and never give up. In nearly all of the scenes, mostly at the last part there was a dim film noir; which stresses the sexual desire and cynical behavior. All of those kinds of lighting equipments and shadow shades that were used in the film were classic ones. Also, the way of applying the background surroundings as a frame of the scenes made the film seems more professional (Kemp).


In conclusion, movement techniques usually try to emphasize an important point of the movie to the audience in an indirect way. Moreover, some close-ups and pauses in a film mean that the film director is trying to highlight some major and valuable concepts of the movie. Successful filmmakers use movement techniques correctly and effectively in a film.

Word Count: 1956


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