Citizen Kamen: a Study of Instances of the Film's Mise-en-Scene and Design in the Film Kane

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Mise en scène

The term mise-en-scène essentially means “visual theme” or “telling a story”. Both are shown in visually artful ways through storyboarding and cinematography. One may describe mise-en-scène as the overall look and feel of a movie. This term has two categories, design and composition. The design would include the setting, lighting, acting, makeup, decor, and props. The composition would include the organization, distribution, balance, and general relationship of actors, objects, light and color within the space of each shot.

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An example of mise-en-scène and design being used would be the scene where we see Susan’s face on the marquee looking youthful and happy and most importantly beautiful and the camera switches to what she looks like after leaving her husband. Design is used here with costume, makeup, and hairstyle to make her look awful. Lighting is also a big part of design and is used in this film in many scenes creating power and importance over other characters and is used in importance of the order of life events. This idea of lighting is used in multiple scenes of darkness over Kane. For example, his face is covered in shadow as his affair is exposed right in front of his wife. She’s dressed in the purest of white and he’s in the darkest black suit. When Kane writes his Declaration of Principles, there is a shadow on his face in this scene as well which foreshadows the false promise that this document is to become. We literally cannot see his face at the very moment he’s declaring what he stands for. And lastly, there is a complete dark shadow over Kane as he is the only one standing to give Susan a standing ovation at the opera house.

Composition is used in more clever ways and in which power is shown through these compositions. A great scene that depicts great depth of field is the beginning scene where Charles is young and playing in the snow. Little does Charles know, he is about to be signed over to a millionaire to start a new life. The depth of field in this scene is shown in a narrow way of power and a lateral way of importance. The narrow depth of field shows placement of characters. The mother and the banker take the most power over Charles and are purposely placed in the foreground, leaving the father in the middle, and Charles in the background. We can see each character clearly, even though Charles is seen through a snowy window. The lateral position shows the banker and the mother on the right, Charles’ father on the left, and Charles in the middle which shows that Charles is important and that there are two different opinions and people fighting over him. We see young Charles playing in the snow clearly, because he has no idea he is even being talked about, let alone the center of attention in this scene.

In the film, Citizen Kane, it is easy to see the difference between story and plot, since it is not told in chronological order. The story contains all the events in chronological order. intended. Plot is the ordering and structuring of narrative events as they are presented in the film. Even if the story is not shown in chronological order, we still understand it to be in the order intended for the story to be told. If Citizen Kane was told in chronological order, it would begin with young Kane in colorado, instead, the film begins with his death. However, the storyline is presented in chronological order, consisting of Thompson’s investigation of the true meaning of rosebud. Kane’s life is what is told out of order. The plot of Citizen Kane includes both the investigation in order and Kane’s life as shown and presented in the film. The other interesting thing about this film, is that the story is narrated through a series of flashbacks. This order was very successful in many ways such as a better understanding of the main character’s backstory, the offscreen events remaining part of the story, and emphasis on important events in the story.

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