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At the end of Casablanca, we see Captain Renault open a bottle of Vichy water:

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He pours himself a glass of it, before binning the rest of the bottle. Given the prominence of the label and the exaggerated nature of the scene, it clearly symbolised something. What was it intended to demonstrate?

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up vote 16 down vote accepted

In the script, the scene plays out as follows:

Renault walks inside the hangar, picks up a bottle of Vichy water, and opens it.

Renault: Well, Rick, you're not only a sentimentalist, but you've become a patriot.

Rick: Maybe, but it seemed like a good time to start.

Renault: I think perhaps you're right.

As he quickly pours the water into a glass, Renault sees the Vichy label and quickly DROPS the bottle into a trash basket which he then KICKS over.

He walks over and stands beside Rick. They both watch the plane take off, maintaining their gaze until it disappears into the clouds.

Just before this, Rick has shot Major Strasser dead.

It appears that this action, and his "becoming a patriot" in the eyes of Renault, inspires Renault to do the same.

Vichy was an unoccupied region of France that persecuted Jews and collaborated with the Nazi government.

By binning the entire bottle of water, he is symbolically severing his ties with the corrupt Vichy government and the entire Nazi regime, thus becoming a "patriot" himself.

This is a complete turn from his character earlier in the film, where he clearly looks out for himself, regardless of whether that means helping the Nazis or the French interests.

This turn in character is clearer in the scene afterwards, when he and Rick plan their future lives together - on the same side.

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1  
You're either as old as I am, or a History buff to get that. – Gandalf Feb 26 at 0:10
2  
@Gandalf: I rewatched it last night and had no idea what it represented. I had to spend a bit of time researching it, but I thought it was absolutely fascinating so had to post it :) – Andrew Martin Feb 26 at 0:11
    
Check out the post-war behaviour of France, especially in Vietnam. – Gandalf Feb 26 at 0:13
1  
Excellent answer. I have only one suggested edit. Initially, I read "rest of the film" as "remainder of the film." Clearly, you meant "earlier in the film." – Doug Clutter Feb 26 at 1:38
    
@DougClutter: Thanks for this. I've made the edit to clarify things. – Andrew Martin Feb 26 at 9:49

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