Re: Fatal Flaw?
The Goal of a story is the one thing that will overcome the problems affecting everyone in a story. The goal, or purpose, of any piece of fiction sits outside of the world of the story itself. This may be to entertain, or to provoke, or to incite laughter, or to simply relay some information. When speaking of the Story Goal in regards to the structure of a story, this is something that exists because of the need to solve a problem.
The Inciting Incident occurs, balance is upset, and the Goal, if successfully achieved will right this inequity. While each character may have his or her own personal goals, there is always one central goal that everyone is attached to. This goal, and the efforts to achieve it represent the author's logical argument surrounding the problem at hand.
In every complete story there is also an emotional argument going on that correlates with this logical "objective" one, and this emotional argument is where it seems everyone involved in this discussion is focusing their attention. This is because this part of the argument was written with more emphasis in the case of "Casablanca" and it is the part most hold dear. This does not discount the fact that the logical argument still exists. You need to have both for a story to feel complete. The dissonance between the two creates the meaning.
The letters of transit are not simply a plot device to get the ball rolling. Everyone in "Casablanca" is concerned with these letters, and it is in fact their actions or lack of action towards these letters that argues the logical side of the author's message. Ugarte has (or had) his own nefarious plans for them, Laszlo and Ilsa want them, the refugees will do anything for them (even sleep with Renault if they have to), Strasser wants them returned, Ferrari offers to buy them, and so on. Everyone has their own selfish interests at heart when it comes to these letters and it is this selfishness that creates the problems in the world of "Casablanca." Overcoming that selfishness is the key towards achieving the Story's Goal.
The mechanism that drives stories in film is the same that drives stories in novels or in plays. Why? Because the intended recipients of the messages delivered through those formats all have the same receiving device -- their brain. The Dramatica theory of story is the only "paradigm" that accounts for all these formats without caveats. It is why you'll find that it accurately describes what is going on in "To Kill A Mockingbird" as well as in "Hamlet" as well as in "Casablanca." Story is story regardless of the medium.