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Citizen Kane

By Sheila-Kiger Jan 17, 2014 1168 Words
Discuss the ways in which Citizen Kane challenged the traditional narrative and technical elements of classic Hollywood cinema. Give specific examples using appropriate cinematic terminology.

Citizen Kane is a 1941 American drama film directed, co-written, produced by, and starring Orson Welles. This was Welles’s first feature film. With this film, Welles introduced many new filmmaking innovations. Some of the innovations were in cinematography, storytelling techniques, and special effects, lighting and framing of a scene. One of the greatest movies of all time was Orson Welles's Citizen Kane. Almost all of the movies of the time were told chronologically and had a beginning, middle, and an end. Citizen Kane was the first movie to tell the audience the end of the movie in the beginning. The movie was mostly told in flashbacks.

Unlike traditional Hollywood, Citizen Kane combines non-linear and composite storytelling from multiple points of view, including the famous opening newsreels, interviews, and flashbacks, to present the main character (Kstrykers Blog). Traditional Hollywood has very static mise-en-scene with actors and objects mostly in the center of the frame and never out of focus. Objects, characters and props were usually evenly distributed throughout the scene. The lighting was usually three point and split the scene into foreground and background.

An innovative technical aspect of Citizen Kane is the unprecedented use of deep focus (Ogle, P. 1985). In nearly every scene in the film, the foreground, background and everything in between are all in sharp focus. Another unorthodox method used in the film was the way low-angle cameras were used to display a point of view facing upwards, showing the ceilings in the background (Toland, G.). Since movies were primarily filmed on sound stages with the Hollywood studio system, it was impossible to film at an angle that showed ceilings because they shot on stages (Kstryker). Mise-en-scene is used to "signify the director's control over what appears in the film frame" doing this by using elements as settings, lighting, costume, and the movement and actions of figures appearing within the film (Bordwell & Thompson, 2004). One example of this is the scene where he finds out that he lost the race for governor. He is supposed to be a powerful individual and with the camera angle being so low, it made him looked huge on screen. Because of the angle of the camera, the shot has a lot of depth. In my opinion, the most significant and powerful mise-en-scene within Citizen Kane is when the parents are in the house having a conversation with Thatcher, the banker. As the conversation is happening, we see a young boy playing in the snow, through a window. I feel this scene symbolizes the innocence that is being taken from him. He is never depicted this way again in the film. This is when a change begins to take place without his knowledge. The boy is in the middle of the frame for the remainder of the movie, making this part the most dramatic of the movie. A decision is being made on the boy's life unknowing to him of it and he is carefree as he plays in the snow (Boghani and McKeever, 2013). Welles’ Citizen Kane feels modern in a way that virtually no other film from the 1940’s does. It separated itself from the rest of the Hollywood pack by attempting to create a new style of filmmaking with its creative use of narration and style. Ironically, Citizen Kane may have broken the Hollywood mold, but it created a new one in its place. While breaking Hollywood conventions, it eventually became the standard, used by many a director, such as Quentin Tarantino, Stanley Kubrik, and Christopher Nolan. However, since the film takes such cinematic leaps, Citizen Kane is will be considered one of the most innovative and advance movies for a long time.


Boghani, A., & McKeever, C. (2013). Citizen kane. U.S.A.: GradeSaver LLC.

Bordwell, D., & Thompson, K. (2004). Film art: An introduction. (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Mulvey, L. (1992). Citizen Kane. London: British Film Institute.

Ogle, Patrick L; Bill Nichols (1985). "Technological and Aesthetic Influences Upon the Development of Deep Focus Cinematography in the United States". Movies and Methods (University of California Press). p. 73.

 Toland, Gregg (September 1941). "The Motion Picture Cameraman". Theater Arts magazine. 

Written Assignment 2
Write an essay of 500 to 750 words (with a typical font and spacing this will be between 2 and 3 pages) on the following topic: Discuss the ways in which Citizen Kane challenged the traditional narrative and technical elements of classic Hollywood cinema. Give specific examples using appropriate cinematic terminology.

Develop your argument in your own words, but drawing on specific details from the readings and videos for support. When quoting or paraphrasing, be sure to document and credit your source.

Your essay generally responds to the themes of this written assignment, including addressing the cinematic aspects of Citizen Kane and being within the recommended word count range. The introductory paragraph should include a sentence containing all the main points that will be considered in the essay. Citations in a “References” section along with corresponding in-text citations were provided.

While it is good that an outside web sources was cited, all citations, including web sources, need to be complete.

According to APA style, the first letters of words that are proper nouns, such as places, names and corporate entities like government agencies, contained in citations should be in uppercase/capitalized.

For exact in-text and complete citation form, please refer to the sample paper linked below in APA format:

The following comments made for Written Assignment 1 similarly continue to apply to this one:

This assignment contains only about 67% unique content.

As a general guideline, an assignment should contain no more than 10% quoted material that is identified as such with quotation marks.

What appear to include unquoted passages identified in the corresponding report as “Existing” - which can be accessed at by copying and pasting the essay into the box - need to be paraphrased so that the wording is sufficiently distinct resulting in no highlighted matches in these reports even when in-text citations have been provided and/or directly quoted with quotation marks on a limited basis. Please follow these guidelines for all remaining assignments. Thank you. Direct quotations identified as such with quotation marks mostly are reserved for memorable uniquely worded passages rather than statements of fact. The latter can be paraphrased. Information about paraphrasing is provided in the following link:

Also, TESC makes a free tutorial service (Smarthinking) available to all its students, including paraphrasing assistance. The link below explains how to get started:

Mechanics in terms of grammar and spelling generally are sound for the unique content contained in the essay with some exceptions highlighted in yellow.

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75 points out of a possible total of 100 points

Allan Metz

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