Meticulous works of cinematography such as the one observed in Casablanca propose the significance that cinematographers and their craft hold in the industry. The role of good cinematography in the development and success of the film is undeniable, since the portrayal of the of the actor as well as the film is highly crucial. Just as the book which called movies and meaning stated that filmmakers modulate internal structural time to maintain viewer interest by changing camera positions, the lengths of shots, color and light design, and the volume and density of the soundtrack (Prince, 2014, p. 5.) Even if a film is packed with exceptional actors and a great plot, without cinematographers it would be incomplete.

Movie Clip Reflection One: Cinematography

Cinematographers carefully analyze a shot before incorporating it into a film. There is a variety of cinematic techniques that cinematographers use including, close-ups, extreme close-ups, long shots, extreme long shots, medium-low shots, crane shots, dolly shots, and much more. In the particular context of the 1942 classic Casablanca directed by Michael Curtiz, many shots give a different meaning to the film. Any film’s success hinges on its cinematography. Framing, illumination, focal length, and camera angles are all used in cinematography to affect what the spectator sees. The cinematography in Casablanca focuses the viewer’s attention, influences their emotions, and conveys the film’s topic. There is a sequence at the beginning of the film that begins directly after the word of two German agents being slain while bringing letters of transference, the story’s MacGuffin, to flee Casablanca. One can observe how the cops detain some questionable individuals on the roadway. One of those individuals was a gentleman who had paperwork in his possession, but they were not in sequence. As a result, he attempted to flee the officers but was immediately shot and murdered. The motif of turmoil after tranquility may be seen in this mild case, mirroring larger events such as how, after the havoc in his emotions after getting Ilsa’s letter, Rick had ultimately found some calm.

In one scene, Yvonne is sad and weeping in a close-up shot. The close-frame up’s highlights a section of the face and separate an element. As previously stated, Yvonne’s tearful facial expression gives us a sense of what she had been feeling, and this is great example of expressing emotion and intention in ways that beyond the words she speak (Prince, 2014, p. 11.) There were almost no structures or other sensory images in the backdrop of this photo that was distracting from the person. Furthermore, upfront illumination minimizes the majority of surface shadowing, giving Yvonne a gentle shine. The impartiality notion is also revealed through the cinematography. While America stayed neutral during WWII, this film was made. Rick’s Café Americana’s vibrant colors express a desire for independence. The Germans are depicted in shadow, emphasizing their disregard for compassion. To emphasize their impartiality, the French officer and Rick are portrayed as half-shadowed. Lightening and angles also provide a great aspect to these scenes and a variety of expressive (Prince, 2014, p. 15.)

For instance, in the scene where Yvonne is weeping, we see that there is a slight light that illuminates the front of her face accentuating her facial expressions and muting other objects in the background, so the viewer understands and feels the character. Therefore, light for color and camera angle are vital. Cinematographers need to keep any colors in the same degree of brightness when shooting black-and-white (Prince, 2014, p. 70.)

The aspect ratio is also highly significant which reveals the width and height of a film. For Casablanca, the aspect ratio is 1.37:1 which a classic academic ratio is (Prince, 2014, p. 51.) This is particularly helpful in revealing the setting and mood of the film, as in the case of Casablanca it reveals its old-timely nature, given the narrower ratio, the Golden ratio is still in use to generate strong proportions, and we’re never overpowered by the airfield’s vast expanse. The camera’s motion contributes to the illusion of breadth, but there’s a limitation to how many persons and subjects we could fit into a frame.

To conclude, films, their meanings, and the themes can be highly manipulated by cinematographers and directors (Prince, 2014, p. 42.) As seen in the example above cinematographers uses various to add meaning to the film. Casablanca stands out as one of the most classic examples. Cinematography truly puts the film’s essence in place otherwise the only reliance on actors’ performances would not have been fruitful.


Curtiz, M. (1942). Casablanca. Warner Bros.

Prince, S. (2014). Movies and meaning: An introduction to film. -6th ed., Essex: Pearson.