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"Play the Marseillaise! Play it!"

When Victor Laszlo strikes up the band in Rick's Cafe to play the French National Anthem to sing down the Nazis in Casablanca he shows the power of voices raised in song. This is easily my favorite scene out of a wholly remarkable film. When you know the history of how this film was made it is astounding that it got made at all, much less how it became one of the truly iconic films of all time.

Laszlo shows the weakness of totalitarianism in this scene. It can bear no dissent. If it is not in complete control, it reels. And even token, sentimental resistance like singing La Marseillaise can make it nervous. For totalitarianism is about control of symbols, to overlay its meaning on all the symbols of life. As such, symbols are no longer malleable but are static. It means what it means because we tell you what it means.

Totalitarian regimes can withstand bullets and bombs, because it can understand and subsume those things into its propaganda, but voices raised in song, they cannot withstand. And to that I say, Vive la France!

40 for 40, #4

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