Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca (1942) and Nick Cassavetes’ The Notebook (2004) remain widely known romantic films for their era. Although recorded more than half a century apart, these two films capture similar stories dealing with young love that breaks apart but finds each other again. Although the endings differ significantly and many element of film differ, there are certain elements of film that are comparable. Both Casablanca and The Notebook highlight specificities of the romance genre, however Casablanca also represents several other genres.
Genre is a major element in film that classifies it into a specific type and puts the film into a certain category. Several films remain part of several genres and are called hybrid films. Different types of genres represented within movies include examples such as horror, romance, drama, sci-fi, action, and comedy (Briggs). Subgenres exist as well which separate an overall genre into a more precise description such as labeling a film futuristic sci-fi movie rather than just a science fiction movie. Genres often times reflect the cultural context of the time (Esteban). This is because the audience is targeted in a certain way on purpose. Various characteristics that affect the category of genre a film is placed in include “setting and location, characterization, plot and structure, themes and concerns, narrative address, and style” (Higgins).
Casablanca remains one of the first Hollywood genre films. Specifically, Casablanca is mostly a romance and drama film. When evaluating Casablanca as a romantic film, several occurrences throughout the film support it as romantic. Elements of romantic films include love and relationship stories trying to capture the viewers’ emotions, overall happy moods, and heavy inclusion of dialogue. Casablanca indeed possesses an overall happy mood, especially for the time period it is characterized in; Laszlo escapes from the horrors of the concentration camp however the movie does not include the horrors of concentration camps. In addition, the film includes significant dialogue between characters; overall description and narration is not common.
The Notebook depicts a romantic film as well. A strong love story develops throughout the plot with a satisfying ending. Although the movie contains a significant amount of heart touching moments, an overall happy mood is characterized throughout. The main characters Allie Hamilton and Noah Calhoun are able to escape the pressures and hardships in life together; although sometimes they fight, they are crazy about each other. The movie makes the audience want to smile. Romantic fills often make the audience feel good. A connection with the characters is established and the audience wants to see a happy ending.
The setting and location represented throughout both films is different. The Notebook is mainly shot in a small town and romantic shots of lakes are taken while Casablanca is predominately shot in a bar, dark rooms, and military controlled Morocco. The Notebook is also filmed at a center for the elderly but shows shots of sunsets, flowers and grassy fields. The setting in The Notebook yields more of a happy feel, while the overall feelings through setting in Casablanca are tense. Casablanca has a lot of shots of booze, military, and propaganda. Although rough shots are included, shots in Paris are also found in Casablanca. The time period and culture during the writing of Casablanca was post World War II, which describes why such images and references were included in the film.
The characterization seen in both films differs for different characters. Both leading men are seen as manly for their time periods. However, their expression of love for the leading women is different. Rick remains standoffish and allows Isla to go off with the other man at the end while Noah writes letters to Allie every day and builds her a house. The women are similar; both remain in relationships with one man on the side but love another man too. For Ilsa, she stays with her husband in the end of the film although the love in her eyes for Rick is obvious. For Allie, she leaves her fiancé to be with her true love Noah again.
The plot and overall structure of each film possess both similarities and differences. The ending for The Notebook, although very sad, is endearing. The ending for Casablanca is commending. It is respectable that Rick saves the life of the one he loves however it is undistinguishable whether or not this is a true happy ending because he does not end up being with the one he loves at the end. Throughout the films, the two relationships had by each woman cause issues. In The Notebook however, references to propaganda and militia that help carry the plot do not occur.
The themes represented throughout both films include some similar and some differences. Major themes in Casablanca include independence vs. involvement as related to Rick, isolation vs. intervention in WWII, American tolerance vs. European, Democracy vs. fascism, and gender roles (Byrne). Major themes in The Notebook include young love, the effects illness has on family, status in society, and maternal expectations. Love with boundaries remains a theme found throughout both films as Ilsa has different relationships of love with both Rick and Laszlo and Allie has different relationships of love with both Noah and her fiancé. Independence vs. involvement is seen in multiple cases throughout both films. In Casablanca, for the majority, Rick is seen as a hard, tough, independent guy who simply worries about himself. In the end, he end Rick helps both Ilsa and Laszlo escape, even though he does not escape with the woman he loves. In The Notebook, both Noah and Allie’s mom go through different phases of independence v. intervention. Allie’s mother intervenes in her love life throughout the film based on her own feelings. Although in the end of the film Noah is suggested to be independent of Allie in her episodes of Alzheimer’s disease, he intervenes.
The genre represented most by The Notebook is romance. Although romance is the major genre for Casablanca, several other genre aspects represent the film including documentary aspects, war, espionage, propaganda, drama, film noir, and western. Film noir is represented in many cases for instance when Marion pulls out a gun in front of Rick. Propaganda is seen in the multiple shots to specific posters and advertisements. Western is represented in the end of the film where Rick pulls out his gun and shoots someone so quickly it references a duel; in addition, a big wagon wheel is seen in the background (Byrne). Different shots of, feelings, and references to different genres characterize Casablanca. The setting, characterization, plot, and themes of both The Notebook and Casablanca help specify the genre.
Briggs, Robert. “Film Factories?: A Review of Genre and Contemporary Hollywood Edited by Steve Neale.” Senses of Cinema. Ed. Steve Neale. RSS, Dec. 2003. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.
Byrne, Joseph. “Casablanca and Genre.” Web log post. English 245 Film Form and Culture. WordPress, Oct. 2013. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.
Esteban, Jose. “Genres: Where to Draw the Line?” British Film Institute. Film Forever, 24 Jan. 2013. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.
Higgins, Elizabeth. “Genre.” Glyndwr. Glyndwr University, 2012. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.