Originally Posted by JimHull
I guess my problem would be that if the goal of the story was Rick getting Ilsa than who would the Antagonist be?
One of my smarter screenwriting teachers - a guy with one absolutely huge film to his name, and a long solid career of work - always reminded us that a movie doesn't REQUIRE a specific Darth-Vader-like antagonist. Rather than "antagonist," he encouraged us to think in terms of "forces of antagonism."
His point was that this opens up the door to much more nuanced films.
I'll use an example of a film that most of us wouldn't think of as particularly nuanced: Top Gun. Who's the antagonist? Well, you could talk about Val Kilmer, I suppose, because Tom Cruise is competing with him. You could talk about Tom Skerrit, becuase he runs the school and is ultimately the one who grounds Tom.
But the real demon that Tom faces isn't either of those guys - it's himself. Those guys provide crucibles, but the real tests are always against himself.
And if something like that works, in a movie as straightforward as Top Gun, why struggle to define an antagonist in Casablanca? WHy not reject the entire theory that there MUST be an antagonist, and instead use the more flexible concept of "forces of antagonism."
Because yes, Strasser is an
antagonist, for parts of the story. So is Laszlo. So is Ilsa. But, of course, the entity that Rick defeats which has the biggest impact on the outcome of the story isn't Strasser, or Laszlo, or Ilsa ... it's his own apathy.
When he defeats that, he wins.
Only because you have arbitrarily decided that someone must be the
antagonist is this any trouble at all.
This, ultimately, swings back to my whole problem with rigid theories about dramatic structure. You've got this little box that says "antagonist" and you feel compelled to fill it.
But you don't have to. There are lots of films where the true test isn't against some ultimate villain, but against the world, or against oneself.