TS2150B –Film and Television Studies
Citizen Kane (1941) by Orson Welles released on 5th September 1941. 1 The film which falls under the genre of drama & mystery didn’t make too much of an impact straight away but as film moved on into the future Citizen Kane became one of the critics best loved movies because of it cinematography, film techniques, lightning, music, editing, transitions, etc. I will be analyzing a number of key scenes in Citizen Kane with relation to the cinematography and other techniques above. The film contains umpteen numbers of key scenes but breaking them down you gets the big main scenes, which set the film from the start. The film depicts Kane as a mystery, and a complicated man who leaves viewers with more questions than answers.
Here is a breakdown of the film first:
7 “Character - Charles Foster Kane
Major conflict - Kane tries to control press coverage of his political career and suppress his affair with Susan Alexander. Rising action - Kane’s political rival, Jim “Boss” Gettys, forces a showdown between Kane, Kane’s wife, and Susan Alexander in an attempt to force Kane from the governor’s race. Climax - Kane chooses to stay with Susan and sends his wife away while daring Gettys to expose him by threatening impotently that he’ll make sure Gettys goes to prison. Falling action - The papers are filled with the news of Kane’s “love nest,” and he loses the election. Themes - The difficulty of interpreting a life; the myth of the American Dream; the unreliability of memory Motifs - Isolation; old age; materialism
Symbols - Sleds; snow globe; statues”
Cinematography wise rom the start of the film Orson Welles uses lots of deep focus; this is seen nearly in every scene. Deep focus is when everything in the frame is in focus regardless of the length. Cinematographer Gregg Toland achieved this through his experimentation with lenses and lighting. 2 To get these kinds of effects Toland went to great deal by using telephoto lenses to shoot close up scenes, then shooting the other scenes and then by using an optical printer her layered them making it seem as though the scene was in focus completely. At the parlors the scene begins with a close up of Charles to a medium long shot of the first parlor – misé en scene shows us again the deep space set up by Gregg Toland.
2 “Some apparently deep-focus shots were the result of in-camera effects, as in the famous example of the scene where Kane breaks into Susan Alexander's room after her suicide attempt. In the background, Kane and another man break into the room, while simultaneously the medicine bottle and a glass with a spoon in it are in close-up in the foreground. The shot was an in-camera matte shot. The foreground was shot first, with the background dark. Then the background was lit, the foreground darkened, the film rewound, and the scene re-shot with the background action.”
The story uses many flashbacks scenes and although this was used before in many films, no one to the date Citizen Kane came out had used it as deeply as Orson Welles. One important flashback scene is shown at the start of the film where you see Kane as a young boy playing and his mother sends him off. This scene you see that Kane leaves unwillingly and he throws away his sleigh. His sleigh remains lonely in the snow building up more and more snow. This connotes the fact the Kane will or could be lonely and that fact that its cold a frozen is could connote the fact that this memory is frozen with Kane. 8 “Although Thatcher later gives Kane another sleigh, it is too late; Kane’s defiant rejection of the sleigh demonstrates the way in which it is not so much the sleigh, but his previous childhood happiness that he longs for.” Kane and his first wife initially seemed very healthy but as the story unfolds you can feel and see the emotional teardown slowly. This is through character dialogues. Their voices become hardened towards each other and it...
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