One of my favorite films of all time is the 1942 classic Casablanca. This film is one of those pieces of art that has set the standard against which I judge all other art. It goes right up there with The White Album and The Sun Also Rises and to say that I hold this movie in the highest regard would be an understatement. I'm a sucker for a lot of movies of that era and almost anything with Humphrey Bogart in it peaks my interest. This is pretty astounding to me given that even being mindful of it, my attention span can be fleeting, a quality that I'm sure many of my generational counterparts can empathize with.
During the time I was making Ilsa I watched the film again and realized that the major themes present in it mirrored what I was trying to express. While not totally apparent at first, you realize that this is a love story in it's truest form. Even though it's set in Nazi occupied early 1940's Moracco, the struggle of finding and keeping love has not changed, only the circumstances in which we do so have. It's easy to say that love is simple and between two people and if they are in love nothing can keep them apart, but that is naive. Love changes, makes you question your values, makes you do things you might not do without it. The struggle is eternal.
The pivotal person in Casablanca for me is Ilsa. She is flawed and perfect all at once, the very essence of everything worth while in our world. Nothing is perfect, and no time is right. But Ilsa, for a short time was the ideal; something to aspire to with all your being and proof that desiring that ideal, that time and that place is not a fools errand. It's a reminder of what we should be doing everyday, driven by love and that which inspires. It's a reminder that life will not work out the way we planned or wanted it to in so many ways but that does not mean life stops or the world quits spinning.
Ilsa for me is personal. It's an idea and it's people. For me, it's not a far stretch to relate to either of the flawed main character of Casablanca, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) or Ilsa (Ingred Bergman), but because of the easy gender association I always gravitate towards Bogart, imagining this man in modern times as a man like myself, struggling to figure it all out. The story is easily relatable to me because of the mirroring in gender yes, but I subscribe that gender is not important when examining the overall theme. Love happens at messy times and under the poorest of circumstances but it's always there and always will be there a the only thing that truly matters. That is what Ilsa is all about.