CASABLANCA: Standing in the Gap | FCC 118

In CASABLANCA, Humphrey Bogart plays the heartbroken bar owner Rick. He takes care of and provides atonement for those within his fold by standing in the gap between them and their accusers. Join us as we discuss these Christian themes and so much more on the Finding Christ In Cinema podcast.

For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction and Previous Episode Recap
  • 00:04:57 – Movie Discussion
  • 00:24:03 – Christian Themes in CASABLANCA 
  • 01:01:35 – Listener Challenge and Feedback
  • 01:14:28 – Well-mannered Frivolity
  • 01:20:30 – Lightning Round 
  • 01:24:26 – Upcoming

Casablanca, Atonement, and Standing in the Gap

Hundreds of thousands of European refugees are fleeing to America for freedom. Enemy forces are preventing them from taking the easy way, so their journey is a long and difficult one. They can only go so far until they need official documentation for their travels, and such documentation is hard to obtain legitimately. Therefore, they must wait in a neutral zone until the appropriate time, should that time come at all.

No, I’m not talking about the current Syrian refugee crisis. I’m speaking about the stasis of the world of Casablanca, not only the name of this film but the name of the city in which many of those fleeing Nazi forces find themselves. There, they must wait until they can catch a plane to Lisbon, Portugal and ultimately a trans-Atlantic ship to the United States – safely away from the Third Reich.

Rick is a bar owner who has set up shop in Casablanca. He, too, has fled from his home, and he knows that others on a similar path need a place to relax and divert themselves from their troubles. He is also very kind and gracious to his staff. He picks up the tab of a couple of German soldiers who left a bad check. When a lucky patron wins 20,000 francs, he constantly reassures the dealer that lost the money that everything is alright. He even takes care of his piano man Sam as if he were a brother.

This image from CASABLANCA shows Humphrey Bogart.

According to Captain Renault, Rick is a “sentimentalist.” His sympathy doesn’t end with his bar, either. Before moving to Casablanca, Rick served in two different wars. First, he helped transport weapons to Ethiopia in 1935. A year later, he fought the uprising fascist state in Spain. For all intents and purposes, Rick is a veteran who has always fought for the underdog and will always do so. This theme is what endears us to him so much, and it’s this theme that is ultimately called into question in the film’s climax.

As sentimental as Rick is, he has had his share of heartache. The incident was strong enough to shake him to his core and drive him to drink. It involves a woman named Ilsa Lund, who is on the run with her fugitive husband Victor Laszlo. Some time ago in Paris, Rick and Ilsa fell in love harder than most people. At the time, Victor was being held in a concentration camp, which was considered as good as dead. When Ilsa found out that Victor was alive, she had already wrapped poor Rick around her finger. She ended up returning to Victor and leaving Rick with no explanation – only a note that dissolved in the rain as he read it.

That experience scarred Rick deeply, and now he finds himself with Ilsa once again. This time, Victor is with her, and they are both seeking safe passage to America. Oddly enough, Rick has two letters of transit that can grant them that safe passage. Thanks to the heart-opening foreshadowing of a young Bulgarian couple, Rick ultimately makes the decision to help Ilsa and Victor get on that plane to Lisbon and on their way to America.

This image from CASABLANCA shows Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, and Paul Henreid.

If anything, Rick provides atonement for those who can’t defend themselves. He takes on their debts and their punishments and stands in their place. Even when he himself has suffered a tremendous heartbreak, he doesn’t let his own past get in the way of helping other love stories have their happy ending.

The heartbroken hero is an archetype all too common in the silver-screen classics of yesteryear, but it doesn’t lessen the power of the example. It’s a mold that was put forth by Moses, who made atonement for the people who broke his and God’s hearts. It’s a mold that is most exemplified, however, in Jesus Christ, who was not only heartbroken for a faithless generation but also physically broken so that all who believe in Him may have everlasting life. That’s an example worth following anytime.

Key Texts

Ezekiel 22:30 CEB

I looked for anyone to repair the wall and stand in the gap for me on behalf of the land, so I wouldn’t have to destroy it. But I couldn’t find anyone.

1 John 4:11-12 NLT

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes – including links to articles discussed – by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a way to use good stories to soften people's hearts.
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  • Philip Heard

    Hey guys, thanks for getting me to finally watch Casablanca. It’s one of those classics I needed to see and it lived up to it’s reputation. It was such a well done film, it would be too much to list all of the aspects it excels in. I particularly enjoy it’s historical aspect, and the fact it came out in 1942 when the world was in chaos and dealt with a real human situation in one of the world’s little corners. I’m still confused as to how the Nazis had so little power in a French African nation when they had invaded France before, and how and to what extent French government collaborated with Germany?

    Anyways, one thing I get is how Rick displayed a good example of Christian love, not the romanticized western version that often condones and promotes adultery. Rick’s love for Ilsa went beyond his strong desire to be with her and to the point of doing what was best for her- keeping her together with her husband and sparing her a passionate decision that would have grave consequences later. Too often nowadays we see stories where a spouse like Laszlo is a heel and the writer tries to get the audience to root for a breakup of the marriage so the protagonists can get together. At the same time, these were not one dimensional, vanilla characters who were goody two shoes. They were imperfect and complex, and had a genuine feel to them.

    Here’s to more classics in the future! Happy Thanksgiving guys, I’m thankful for what you do and the community around it. Love the show! #muhweeladgimli

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