a qwriting.qc.cuny.edu blog

Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Welles and released by RKO Radio Picture in 1941 is acclaimed to be one of the most influential movies in the film history. In the analysis, I will concentrate in the scene where Charlie Foster Kane and Susan Alexander Kane are back in the hotel room from the second appearance in the opera. This scene reveals a lot of tension and power. The best way to describe it is by feeling all this emotions through the filmic elements that are being used. A lot of high and low angles with a mix of high and low key light, extreme close ups, overlapping, the Baroque style and deep focus gives the scene its own life . In this analysis we will see how the arrogance exceeds the selfishness. Let’s remember that Citizen Kane was made on times after the depression and at the same time William Randolph Hearst was around, the biggest sensationalist on the yellow journalism and a bright representation of the greed, thirst of power and self-centeredness.

On the beginning of the scene we see shot reverse shot from Susan to Kane, whining about Jed Leland review in a high angle shot then it goes back to Kane to a low angle shot with a right key light that shows he is paying a little more of attention to the knocking door than the annoying Susan. Then the magical deep focus appears to shows us a kind of reality of this world where the Mise-en-scene Kane stands and approaches to the door, Susan is at the right sitting on the floor with all the newspapers. The essence of Welles was to “break the rules” show ceilings, ceilings and more ceilings when it was possible and the main idea is to emphasize the sense of reality because that’s how we (our sight) sees in real life, ceiling, wall, and floor.

Then the door is open and then it goes back to a high angle as where Susan is asking rudely “… Jed Leland…” deep focus appears again with a Baroque Style, the draperies, intensifies the bold and extravagant style, of “the rich” and most importantly the drama that is transforming the tension in the room.

The camera movement pans left, following Kane to accentuate the curiosity of the spectator(us) to see what is inside the envelope, then the tension increases where we see Susan still in a high angle shot, and then a reverse shot to a low angle shot  to Kane.This shot reverse shot, occurs very simultaneously until the end, but there are important moments where Susan becomes a severe migraine most importantly when the shot of the check is ripped off and the declaration of principles is on focus. The overlapping takes action. This is one of the results of Welles where we see the theatrical influence in his experience. As mention before this is breaking the rules.

There is more of shot reverse shot and the biggest momentum is when Susan decides to stop singing, then we go back to the low angle shot to Kane says “you will continue with your singing Susan, I DON’T PROPOSE TO HAVE MYSELF RIDICULOUS” incredible astonishing. In this scene we can see how arrogant and absurd Kane could be. Welles wants to show how a wealthy man doesn’t care much of what the wife wants or others want, but to make sure he prevails in anything he does, it has to be done his way or nothing will be perfect. He doesn’t want to be humiliated, but he wants to humiliate isn’t that something?

This brings us back to William Randolph Hearst as where he wanted to ban coverage of film Citizen Kane in his papers and delayed the release of the film. Even money was offered to RKO to destroy the negative.

Then we see Susan in a straight angle, extreme close up, shot reverse shot to Kane in a low angle shot and then he exploits, the camera tracks out and this is to show that Kane is going towards Susan.This shot is the most effective one in lighting, first we see an extreme close up into Susan from a high angle and the huge shadow approaching, the effect of low key light demonstrates a monster approximating. This monster wants to impose his rules; hostility is surrounding Susan because she moves back down. All these effect show how a dictator wants to impose his egocentric believe and lower down the weak and most importantly to show who has the power.

In conclusion, Welles is well known for breaking the rules in film. He used theatrical effects like overlapping to show arguments. Deep focus with a lot of scenic ceilings to makes us feel a sense of reality. Low and high angles to show who the dictator was and who was powerless. A mix of lights , but especially the low key light to demonstrate the same reason as before who has the power, most importantly in those times (1941) William Randolph Hearst was a great example of the Citizen Kane in the times of depression.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
October 22nd, 2010 at 5:03 am

  1. 1
      anroy says:

    I like how you analyze the after opera scene. The scene is also a good exapmle of misenscene and deep focus in Baroque style. High and low focus observation is very symbolic to me. I agree with you that Kane had a strong ego and at times it seems he doesnt care for anything except himself.

  2. 2

    Everything about the Hcg diet