This 40-page book is printed in-house and contains a detailed semiological commentary prepared with the general reader, students and teachers in mind. 

For those who would like to use it as a teaching and learning aid in a classroom situation the film has been segmented into twelve sequences of 10 to 15 minutes duration.


SEQUENCE 1 (DVD Chapters 1/2/3: 6 mins)
Let the film roll until Major Strasser says “... Mr Rick himself”

The credits roll over a map of Africa. Music reminiscent of Morocco and exotic bazaars plays. As the music credit appears there is a change, and the notes of the French national anthem, the Marseillaise, sound. Music and credits fade after the director’s name (Michael Curtiz) appears. So the film opens with its setting suggested by the map and the music. The action will take place in French-occupied Morocco. The themes of imperialism and conquest have been introduced and will run through the film. Europe has moved into Africa and set up provinces there. The imagery, in the form of the musical score, reinforces this theme; the French anthem has replaced the native African music. The Marseillaise will become an important motif as the story unfolds.

In a fade-out/fade-in the credits finish and we see a globe revolving slowly. An authoritative male voice gives us the time setting for the film - the coming of WWII. We associate the image of the globe and the sound of the voice with the newsreels that used to be part of the experience of going to the cinema in the days before television. Indeed TV news programmes still use this iconography. The documentary footage adds to the sense of historical reality. Europe is “imprisoned”. “The Americas” represent freedom. In fact many of the actors working on this film were European exiles who fled before the march of the Nazis in the 1930s. (The director himself was born in Budapest and had come to the United States before the upheaval of the 1930s.) The dark area on the map shows the extent of Nazi occupation. The northern half of France is in the territory of The Third Reich. Southern France is coloured gray and is governed from Vichy by a regime that collaborates with the Nazis. The brightly coloured areas denote the Allies and neutral or unoccupied territories.

The documentary clips show images of refugees: men, women and children flee before the Nazi onslaught. They cross to Oran and we notice that part of Morocco is denoted as Spanish. When Casablanca is mentioned we see that it is situated in French Morocco. So Europe is being overrun but in its time it has overrun great swathes of the continent of Africa. There is no judgement expressed in the film on this aspect of European imperialism. German expansionism, however, is presented as a sinister development. America lies outside all this conflict in the old Europe.

At the time this film was being made the United States entered the war. American troops landed on the shores of Africa with the Allied forces in 1942. Around the time of the completion of the film a conference involving Roosevelt, Churchill and de Gaulle was held in Casablanca. The film is based on a play which was neverproduced, Everybody Goes To Rick’s. The new title, Casablanca, meant that it was immediately recognised, as the city itself had become an important place in the war effort of the Allies. American national feeling would be roused by a film that would show America coming to the aid of Europe against the threat of totalitarian Fascism. Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick, can be read as a metaphor for American involvement in WWII - initial isolationism followed by committed involvement.

The camera is lowered into a bazaar. The scene is exotic - a mosque tower and crowds of Africans who throng the streets in their native costumes. The music adds to the strangeness of the setting. As the camera gets to street level, the narrator’s voice repeats the word ‘wait’.

We cut to a police officer who is recognisably European, as he takes an urgent message. He relays this message to all officers and declares it “important”. Two couriers have been murdered on the train from Oran. They were heading for Casablanca. Two letters of transit have been stolen. These letters will drive the action of the film’s major plot. Narrative often works like this - a disruption occurs early on and acts as the engine that propels the story to its final resolution.