Film Analysis Project

October 22, 2010 | | 2 Comments

Citizen Kane (Welles, RKO, 1941) “The film, tracing Kane’s life from an unhappy childhood to old age and death through a series of complicated flashbacks, was a masterpiece of set design, camera placement, deep-focus composition, lighting and editing.” (Dixon and Foster p. 110). The scene when Thatcher visits Kane at the Inquirer is a great example of set design, camera placement, deep-focus composition, sound, and lack of editing, which is not a negative in this case. This scene only last about two minutes and thirty seconds but in that short time frame Welles manages to utilize many technical elements along with dialogue to give the viewer a rich portrayal of the character Charles Foster Kane. The film was released in 1941 and the U.S. was already well into WWII since the start of the year. Any talk about war at this point in time all around the world would get lots of attention, and Kane speaks about war in Cuba in the scene. Welles shoots this scene and fills it with content because this scene makes the viewer love Kane and starts building him up for his very hard fall at the end. Who can not love Kane as a rich man who does not care about loosing his money as long as he looses it standing up for the “under privileged”.

The scene starts with an over the shoulder shot of Thatcher talking to Kane. Kane is sitting down and comes of very calm while Thatcher is standing up talking down to him in a very load voice displaying power in the frame. Thatcher is standing in the foreground and is the largest figure in the frame, Kane is low and in the middle ground, Bernstein stands to Kane’s left and behind him while Leland comes into the frame behind Bernstein then leaves the frame for a second, jumps back in to grab a cigar on the table taking a position in the middle with Kane and the moves again behind Bernstein. Leland gets very close to Bernstein while standing behind him when he could have easily stood in the middle to the left. All of this movement gives this scene incredible depth especially with Leland moving around but all the characters are used for that reason. A foreground, middle, and background are created by the composition and blocking with the actors, Welles could have positioned everybody next to each other making the scene flat. Although when you really look at the scene you will realize that the set design gives it depth as well. Closing of the space where the action is taking place and creating more space behind it is another way Welles created deep-focus composition. We can even see workers to the right and back of the frame.

Now all of this movement filling the frame comes with sound in the form of dialogue and background noise. Since this scene is starting to build the character Kane dialogue is important and when Bernstein relays the message from Cuba and states that there is no war and Kane responds “Dear Wheeler you provide the Prose Poems, I’ll provide the war” this can bring up mixed thoughts about Kane and questions. Is Kane honest? Is he making stories up to sell papers? Is he telling the truth no matter what the consequences are? All of these questions are left unanswered in the scene because it is early in the film, but the scene still accomplishes what it was meant to, and that is to make the viewer love, believe and support Kane. This is done by the shift in power within the frame using composition again and sound. As the scene continues Thatcher sits putting himself at eye level and same size within the frame. Now sound takes over Thatcher raises his voice and Kane does too and starts explaining his principles for running the paper in the way he does. Kane becomes more and more powerful in the frame and camera movement helps this by moving in gradually with the increase of Kane’s power over Thatcher. Sound is very important now because Thatcher has become silent and Kane is loud causing the workers in the back to stop talking and working but you can hear them turn their seats to witness the argument. Kane is giving a great speech about his roll in the world and how he plans to stand up for those who can not fight and lets us know that he is aware of his wealth and does not care for it all of these words go on uninterrupted because everyone in the frame is quiet listening to his speech. The silence and high volume from Kane gives the viewer an amazing presentation of Kane that has been enhanced by the use of camera movement and sound. Kane is now standing up both in the literal sense and in the symbolic by standing up for his principles and letting Thatcher know that he will continue running his paper his way regardless of the outcomes.

Now the whole scene is coming to it’s conclusion and no editing has been done. The whole scene has been created and has given the viewer so much to enjoy without cutting a single frame. Kane is so heroic, powerful, and likeable by the end of this scene and of coarse we know how rich he is by letting us know how many years it would take for him to close down spending one million per year. This is when we finally see editing used when he gives us a big smile at the end of his speech, giving the viewer some extra charm right after winning them over with his principles.

This scene is an incredible way of building up Kane to a point that makes him very lovable and makes the viewer want to cheer him on and hope for a happy ending. Welles already gives us the ending at the start of the film and still has us hoping for a different one in this scene. The scene does what it has to as the film does and shows how people change and they have their moments through out life. Money, power, and respect can all be lost no matter how much you succeed but the real sad part is loosing something that cost you nothing, in Kane’s case it was his principles and “Rosebud”.

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