Last week in Film Studies we were watching Casablanca. My students never like this movie, and this year's group was no different. I don't think they get it.
They especially don't understand the scene with the dueling anthems. In case you're not familiar with it or don't remember, it goes like this: Everyone is hanging out at Rick's cafe. General Stasser and the other Nazis start singing the Nazi anthem/fight song or whatever you want to call it. Everyone who isn't a Nazi looks upset. Then Victor Lazlo comes in, tells the band to start playing La Marseillaise, and people start crying tears of pride while they sing. The Nazis get mad, and Victor Lazlo's life is now REALLY in danger.
I try to explain to the class; it's about patriotism. People understood patriotism and self-sacrifice at the time Casablanca was made, but are they anything but abstract concepts to us now?
And what does resonate with the youth of today? There are so many vampire stories, and tales of dystopian romance... does that mean that teenagers feel estranged, like the forces against them are evil and unnamed? I'm sure my students would laugh at such a theory. "It's just a book (or movie, or whatever)" they would say, as they accuse me of reading way too much into things. But I find it sad that all the sacrifices our forefathers have made have led us to this place: where we can't even understand what the fight was about in the first place.
My favorite line from Casablanca:
Victor Lazlo - "Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win."