Breakfast with the Kanes
Abstract: While it is evident to the viewer that Charles and Emily’s marriage is falling apart during Citizen Kane’s breakfast montage, the mise-en-scene and technical devices used to reinforce this idea are less recognizable. The variation of the actors’ demeanors and placement, the progression of costumes, and the use of lighting subtly support the presentation of a deteriorating marriage, and furthermore, of Kane’s inability to sustain a successful, lasting relationship due to his career.
The mise-en-scene and technical devices used in the montage are by no means limited to this portion of the film. In fact, they are found in numerous scenes throughout the movie to reveal other relationships that have fallen apart as a result of Kane’s profession, such as his friendship with Jed Leland and romance with Susan Alexander.
The actors’ attitudes in each sequence in the montage and their placement in relation to one another are each examples of the mise-en-scene portraying Charles and Emily’s feelings toward each other as time passes in their marriage. The introduction to the montage shows the viewer two individuals playfully flirting after a long night of parties. Charles even plays the role of a butler as he serves his wife. Emily on the other hand, giggles and smiles as she begs her husband to stay home with her a little longer before he goes to work. As each successive sequence passes, Emily becomes reprimanding as her husband begins to spend more time at work, scornful when he insists on putting Mr. Bernstein’s gift in the nursery and when he insults the president in his newspaper, and eventually sad as she sits at a silent breakfast table reading the rival newspaper of her husband’s. Charles tone of voice evolves from flirtatious in the opening sequence, to powerful and controlling as his paper starts to become more successful, to critical when his wife starts to question his authority and literary topics, to demanding as he tells...
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