I have always been a sucker for old movies. Some of my most fond memories of early childhood consist of my family and me watching a variety of films from the 1940s through the 1970s (what I consider “old” movies).
I took delight in movies from a wide range of genres. I nervously bit my nails through “Vertigo” and “Rear Window,” suspense masterpieces by Alfred Hitchcock; I laughed at Billy Wilder’s high comedy “Some Like it Hot” and I laughed even harder at Mel Brooks’s low comedy (is there a level below that?) “Blazing Saddles.”
I particularly enjoyed watching “Blazing Saddles” with my grandparents. My grandmother would leave the room, claiming that the film was “too vulgar” for her. My grandfather, on the other hand, would laugh so intensely he could barely breathe.
However, my favorite film is, undoubtedly, “Casablanca.” Released in 1942, the film is vibrant in almost every respect. The characters are compelling, its themes are everlasting, and the dialogue has permeated throughout pop culture. (Both “Play it again, Sam” and “The Usual Suspects” owe their titles to “Casablanca.”)
I am not alone in my adoration of this film. Behind only “Citizen Kane,” “Casablanca” is probably the most famous movie of all time. My little 6-year-old self did not know this at the time. To me, “Casablanca” was, simply, a film that my entire family enjoyed. Perhaps it was the black-and-white cinematography or the warmth of my family, but rewatching “Casablanca” always makes me a little nostalgic. I reminisce about the familial comfort the film spawned and the so-called “Golden Age” of Hollywood filmmaking.
Nostalgia is often scorned in our society. My first encounter with the word was in association with the cliche “midlife crisis” -- the middle-aged men or women wistfully recalling their “glory days” in high school or college and wishing to reclaim some of their youth. I initially believed that nostalgia was a dangerous force, capable of withering away one’s future. It seemed that someone who romanticizes and adores the past is ill equipped to face the harsh realities of the present.
I submit that nostalgia is a positive force. Reflecting on past experiences enhances connections between yourself and whomever you created memories with. When I quote, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship” to my mother, we bond over the memories of my late grandmother and the dramatic ending of “Casablanca.”
Additionally, nostalgia keeps past experiences alive. Every recollection of an old memory breathes new life into the once fading event. Life’s experiences are cumulative. The memories we create stay with us throughout our lives. As novelist William Faulkner once wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” We are the sum of our memories and letting one slip away diminishes elements of our identity.
The joy of daydreaming and reminiscing of the past enriches the present and gives us an idea of how to lead a meaningful life. It is by looking back that one learns how to move forward, right? So even as I revel in numerous rewatchings of “Casablanca,” my eyes look forward to my future ahead.
Adam McPhail is a junior at Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, email@example.com.