Orson Welles' Citizen Kane: A Study

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Orson Welles' Citizen Kane: A Study
Citizen Kane was an outstanding production and groundbreaking film work directed by Orson Welles. The story revolves around the actions of a reporter tasked with deciphering the last words of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles). The reporter's investigation's findings paint a picture of a complex man who rose from obscurity to prominence. Despite receiving valuable information from the deceased's colleague, Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotton), and his girlfriend, Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore), the reporter worries he would never be able to decipher Kane's final phrase, "Rosebud." Welles challenges the conventions of classical Hollywood through his decision to experiment with different styles of film production. In the immediate scene after Kane’s loss in the gubernatorial election, the mise-en-scène techniques of lighting, shots, and camera angles function to support the character development.

Foremost, the director uses low-angle shot techniques to depict the of Kane’s character. The low-angle shots arguably function to portray his apparent dominance over the rest of the people in the room despite his loss in the elections. As everyone leaves the room, the low angle shot is maintained throughout the scene with another effect of distancing the character from the audience. In so doing, the low-angle shots function to enhance the mystery of the character by isolating him from the audience. Similarly, the dominant position this angles creates for Kane enforce the idea that he views society from an exalted position, perhaps that of a king looking down on his subjects. The low angle also captures posters bearing Kane’s image surrounding him to enhance the notion that he is a powerful individual.

The director also uses the technique of low camera angles as Jedediah walks into the room. The camera pans over him as he begins to criticize Kane who then walks away to separate himself. Kane can be seen standing isolated between poles in the room. His positioning demonstrates the shot technique of a frame within a frame. The advantage of this method is that it shits the attention of the audience to Kane Jedediah tells him the truth from which Kane appears to isolate himself. For example, when he says “You don’t care about anyone but yourself,” Kane walks away from the unfolding truth from a third party. Similarly, that Jedediah is positioned outside Kane’s frame serves to convey the notion of an external perspective that is independent of Kane as Jedediah makes his case. As reality sinks, the shot captures the shambled decorations that are evidently symbolic of Kane’s defeated state of mind.

In the next shot, the director exemplifies the usage of lighting techniques. Jedediah steps fully into the shadows as he concludes his criticism of Kane’ fixation with himself. Arguably, the shadow is reflective of the darkness within himself that Kane refuses to acknowledge. Jedediah then walks halfway into the light. By illuminating and shading parts of the body, the director probably succeeds in an attempt to convey an intimate moment between the two characters. The combination of light and shadows seems to convey the different ways Kane perceives his friend. On the one hand, Kane’s construction of Jedediah is that of a man he thinks wants to work in Chicago to break loose from him. On the other, he perceives Leland as a friend he wants to keep.

In conclusion, Welles’ Citizen Kane is an exemplary application of the techniques of camera angles, shots, and lighting. The director puts these techniques to good used to develop the characters of Kane and Jedediah in the scene following his loss in the elections. Low camera angles show Kane as a dominant figure, and framed shots convey his isolation whereas the combination of light and shadows expresses the relationship between the two. However, the dark lighting sometimes makes render the film dull to watch. Overall, the director successfully achieves the objective of character development.

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Works Cited

Welles, O. (1941). Citizen Kane. HollyWood.

December 15, 2021

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Study Citizen Kane

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