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Dunkirk and Casablanca: Films Comparison Essay

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Updated: Sep 9th, 2022

Depicting the events of the Second World War is a popular strategy among moviemakers. The demand for movies about this topic has been unstoppable since the day the war was over. However, aside from demonstrating glorious but violent battles, some cinematographers also manage to excellently portray the struggles of refugees, who were ordinary people trying to escape the terrors of war. It proves that using special effects and violence is not necessary for representing how dreadful this war was. Many of the best military films are chamber productions that take place far from the front. Dunkirk and Casablanca are two movies where the main characters are running from the main threat, which is Nazi Germany. Nevertheless, despite some similar elements between these two movies, it would be wrong to assume that they are the same. In terms of the plot and genres, they are completely different. While the focus of Casablanca is put on the romantic relationship between characters and drama, in Dunkirk, the emphasis is on history and war.

In order to understand the disparities between these two movies, it is necessary to conduct a separate analysis of each one. First of all, it should be noted that in Dunkirk, there is no war in its usual sense. It means that the viewer will not see any extensive battles between two armies. The only fighting characters are the British pilots, while all the other heroes in army uniforms strive to leave the battlefield as quickly as possible (Dunkirk). At the same time, their enemies, which are German troops, are completely absent throughout the entire movie. The enemy appears as a faceless force that lacks in individuality but is terrible in its destructiveness.

Another important factor about this movie is the intersection of three storylines. In this case, the events associated with each storyline occupy a different time frame. The story of British pilots lasts for an hour, the yacht for a day; the soldiers and officers remained on the beach for a week (Dunkirk). In this way, the sense of chaos increases, making the viewer feel how the perception of time can change n extreme conditions. The movie also pays no attention to romance; the characters do not have the mental capacity for this as they are busy surviving and evacuating.

In Casablanca, the viewer also does not see any epic battles, only the struggles of those who wish to evacuate to a safer place. There is only one main storyline that focuses on a complex love drama between Rick and Ilsa (Casablanca). The narrative is relatively calm, comparing to Dunkirk; however, even the threat feels far away, it still hangs over the main characters. The overall mood of the movie is melancholic, which sometimes changes with slight humor in dialogues. Although this black-and-white cinema is far from the modern blockbusters in terms of action and drive, it continues to captivate viewers with its narrative. In addition, while Dunkirk depicts the historical events that occurred during the war, the plot of Casablanca is completely made-up.

In conclusion, it would appear that even though these two movies depict similar topics, their genres are entirely different. Casablanca is more dramatic and relationship-oriented; Dunkirk concentrates on terror and heroism. The storyline in Casablanca is direct, while in Dunkirk, it is complicated. Nevertheless, both films are valuable because despite taking diverse approaches to do it, they demonstrate how desperate people can act to escape the horrors of war.

Works Cited

Casablanca. Directed by Michael Curtiz, performance by Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid, Warner Bros. Pictures, 1942.

Dunkirk. Directed by Christopher Nolan, performance by Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Warner Bros. Pictures, 2017.

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