Michael Curtiz, USA, 1942


The romantic tradition speculates that meteorological conditions either reflect or are in some way resonant with the emotional state of a character’s soul on screen. Storms accompany great emotional highs and the depths of despair, sun accompanies moments of happiness, rain, moments of sadness and melancholy. In this sequence the man reads a letter from the woman he loves, to whom he is about to propose. The letter tells him that she’s returning to Nazism with her husband in France, and that they won’t see each other again. The filmmaker chose to have Bogart’s character read the letter in the street, in the heavy rain, in the middle of a train station, filled with movement heading in every direction, indirectly symbolising the chaos and disorder created by the war. The studio rain drenches Bogart, his hat becoming an overflowing gutter. The rain drops dissolve the letter’s ink, destroying the words of farewell on the page, interpreting the character’s tears and pain for the audience. Thus the sky is in perfect harmony with the emotions of both the character and the spectator.