Citizen Kane (1941) by Orson Welles

Essay details

Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.

After several decades since the production of Citizen Kane, it is considered as one of the most influential movies developed in the United States. Notably, the theory of film attests to the centrality of Kane’s stylistic invention instead of the originality of the narration. Particularly, Welles used an in-depth approach to focus, allowing the camera to sustain the spatial uniformity of the entire shot to articulate the precise meaning of the film (Miller & Hübner, 2019). Also, the above focus allows for the reproduction of the real form of the scenes that allows for an in-depth analysis of the elements within the frames.

Essay due? We'll write it for you!

Any subject

Min. 3-hour delivery

Pay if satisfied

Get your price

Citizen Kane (1941) by Orson Welles is one of the most celebrated and respected puzzling work in the history of the production of cinema. In the film, an eccentric tycoon dies while he mumbles the word “Rosebud.” A procedural newsreel on the life of the tycoon is filmed within a small room. The director of the newsreel is shown to be undoubtedly unsatisfied with the work of the tycoon and instructs one of the journalists in the room to explore the relationship between Kane and Rosebud (Orson, 1941). He firmly believes that through finding a solution to the aforementioned puzzle, Kane’s identity will be identified for everyone to know.

The notion of sensational aesthetics is necessary to understand the numerous methods in which contemporary culture interrelates with cinema. While aesthetic instincts celebrate questions of perceptual and sensual character, it also allows for film analysis as a cultural and ideological artifact (Miller & Hübner, 2019). Citizen Kane can be analyzed based on cinematic realism. The achievements of Welles in this film signified a new approach in the industry of cinema. The film used inventive shadow and lighting, to depict the atmosphere of the mysterious and violent events occurring in the place. Moreover, the film made cinematic progress on several fronts with deep focus, long take, and cinematic realism as the most significant approaches used by Welles; also, Kane introduced the creative potential of other essential cinematic techniques such as camera angles.

Deep focus includes the incorporation of all the elements in the film within one frame inclusive of the background while the camera continues to focus on the characters and the foreground as well (Beach, 2015). It requires the cinematographer to combine composition, lighting, and the camera lens to produce the effect that is desired. In deep focus, the director of the film can illustrate the overlapping activities and mise-en-scene to be more accurate. As a result, the effective manipulation of the mise-en-scene the techniques identified above engages the entire frame without leaving the audience in confusion.

Progressively as the film rolls out, the spectators reconstruct the entire journey of Kane’s life by the recollection of five individuals that knew him personally. Despite the reporter confessing his failure as the film is ending, a criticizing camera angle openly reveals the primary response to the audience. The audience is introduced to the sled that he often used while he was younger as the spectators watch the humiliation and destruction of the old furniture in Kane’s house. Moreover, it is immersed into a furnace while the camera captures the moment for a few minutes and the word rosebud is revealed on its side. Citizen Kane closes with the sign that the audience was shown at the start of the movie: “No Trespassing” (Orson, 1941). The camera focuses on this sign to explain the irony revolving around Kane’s life.

Welles modifies the film’s structure into a confusing movie. The mystery that revolved around Rosebud advances to become a minor conflict of the film. The burning of his Sled is evidence of the above fact. Despite the confession made by the reporter about his failure as a subordinate of the director, he develops to become conscious of the complexity of an individual. Kane Orson (1941) seeks to clarify that the betrayed childhood of Kane, his optimistic moments when he was young, and his grieving time as an adult remain in the audience’s mind as bits of a more obscure character.

Kane is shown to be more interesting due to his manipulative, retributive, and selfish character (Orson, 1941). Through explaining his lifetime as a metaphysical theme, Welles depicts a character from his eternity. Moreover, the complexity of the film contradicts the general structural methods used in contemporary films. The cinematic approach used by Welles makes it challenging to edit its chronology without interfering with its dramatic effect.

A glass ball drops from Kane’s hand at the time of his death and breaks into pieces (Orson, 1941). In the background, there is an unclear image of a nurse entering the room while the camera focuses on the shattered glass fragments. The distorted image is an indication of the end of the omniscience that the audience is privileged to watch. From that moment, apart from a few exceptions, the narrative of Kane’s life shatters, and hence it divides the vision of the audience into six perspectives on the distorted life of Kane. Six narrators including Thatcher, the newsreel, Mr. Bernstein, Jed Leland, Susan Alexander, and Raymond narrate the six perspectives.

The newsreel is entirely inclusive in the film but also superficial (Orson, 1941). It provides a general account of the most significant moments in the public life that Kane led. They include the source of his immense wealth, his creation of a big empire of newspapers and his campaigns against trusts and monopolies. In addition, the newsreel features Kane’s marriage to the US president’s niece, his gubernatorial campaign and his defeat after he was exposed to having an affair. Also, they highlight his efforts to help his second wife become a singer and his opposing politics as a denouncer and supporter of Hitler. Finally, the newsreel provides the narrative for Kane’s departure to Xanadu where he died. Conclusively, the narrative provided by the newsreel is key to understanding the Welles’s point of view.

Since all key events surrounding Kane’s life are illustrated in the film, the audience is not left in suspense to understand his current and future life. The attention of the audience is focused on why his life turned around. Rawlston who was the newsreel director provides that Kane’s story does not have a personal approach to his life in a way that shows he had the potential to be the president of citizens who would both love and hate him. As a result, he decides to halt the newsreel release and instead directs Tompson, a reporter to interview the essential individuals in Kane’s life to identify what Kane primarily meant by ‘Rosebud.’ Rawlston undertakes the above actions hoping to find out who Kane was (Orson, 1941). Thus, the quest for Rosebud’s meaning sets the pretext for various interviews depicted as flashbacks that describe the life that Kane led.

The incorporation of a long take in the film allows the events of the movie to unfold according to a dimension characterized as naturally spatial and progressive (Isaacs, 2006). The extension of the take is preferred over the cut, approximating the actor’s movement to reality and providing the audience the illustration of movement the way it would be depicted off the screen. Thompson and Bordwell give a detailed study of a significant sequence in the initial stages of the film where the camera modestly moves from an elongated exterior shot to a conversation in the interior that involves characters placed in various angles of the shot. This particular scene is filled with intimacy; notwithstanding, there is a steady flow of movement to the interior section from the exterior. The depth of the focus above stresses the central shot continuity from the background to the front that becomes the area, which stays in focus.

The incorporation of the picture in focus acts as a point of resistance to the cut. According to Orson (1941), the camera depicts Charles to be in the exterior and out of the camera’s focus as it concentrates on Charles’s uncle and aunt who are in the interior. The above notion is the revolutionary aspect of the in-depth focus that numerous critics do not appreciate. Long takes, and in-depth focus is similar to the key continuity of the picture in which movement and action are in constant occurrence. Therefore, the idea provides the closest approximation of a reality where if an individual turns their head from focusing on one point to another, the scene at the background continues to progress on its own to the future. Moreover, the individual stays oblivious in time and space in continuous movement based on the gaze of the spectator.

Cinematic realism is another fundamental theory discussed by numerous film analysts of Citizen Kane (Isaacs, 2006). At the core of the realism of the film are long take and in-depth focus cinematography as identified in the text above. Welles, whose main aim was to show realism designed these styles mentioned above. He wanted the spectators to stay unaware of the apparatus he was using by developing the scenes that impeccably flow without constant inter-cutting. Moreover, deep-focus is a technique that is used to approximate a person’s vision. Several innovations that include faster movie emulsions, lamps that are brighter and quieter and coated lenses contributed to the aesthetic and cinematography of Citizen Kane. Notably, the use of the above techniques by Kane allows the audience to figure out the emotional and relationship implications of a particular shot. The mind and eye of the spectator create a perfect connection that results from the montage.

Deep-focus illustrates a different expression tactic for a cinematographer. Beach (2015) posits that the expression originated from the definition of images. Furthermore, movement, lighting, angle, color, and distance can code images and pictures. Such codes are subjective and cultural and cannot be pinned down easily in comparison to the denotative connotation of images. Kane’s shot through the memoirs of Thatcher and handing over his properties and wealth to the bank is an illustration of the connotative understanding of images. Mr. Bernstein begins to read the terms of the ownership while Kane moves to the back of the scope. As he is walking, he diminishes such that he stands below three big windows, which at the start of the shot appeared smaller. In the in-depth focus technique, Bernstein is close up to the right of the frame, while Thatcher is on the left in a medium shot. Kane is located between the aforementioned individuals in a long shot. Here, Kane diminishing illustrates a denotative meaning that connoted the loss of stature and power.

Moreover, deep focus is created in a scene where Kane threw several snowballs at his hometown sign at the point when he was ripped off his childhood. Initially, a shot at a distance from the point of Kane’s isolation in a snowfield, the camera pulls back slowly inside the cabin window where there is an important conversation between Thatcher and Kane’s mother. The camera then rests in a position at the level of the eyes of Kane’s mother and Thatcher who are sitting at proximity to each other (Orson, 1941). They are sitting on the right of the shot at a table located on the foreground. Kane is at the center of the shot and is still visible through a window in the background. Furthermore, his father is positioned on the left; he tries to assert his authority but constantly fails.

Notably, the positioning of the individuals identified above was deliberately planned. Charles was put in the middle because he directs the conversation that ensues in the room. Also, the entire film is a glance into the life of Kane through a window characterized by not understanding him on a personal level but through various perspectives (Orson, 1941). Thatcher and the mother are together and in the same height since they have the same ideology on the future of Kane’s life. Further, the film director positions the father alone on the opposite side due to his opposing opinion on the plans developed by Kane’s mother. Moreover, the lighting technique cuts a shadow through his face to make the audience question his motives.

Similar to numerous other scenes that make use of the in-depth focus technique, the distance between characters makes the audience see the control levels of the actors and their perceptions (Miller & Hübner, 2019). Thatcher and Kane’s mother are positioned close to the camera due to the level of control that they have over the entire situation. Conversely, the father has limited control because of his postures. Furthermore, to explain the concept above, Kane had the least control over the situation since he was young and could not make his own decisions. Ironically, he grew up to become a crucial influential member of the newspaper. Also, he is portrayed as a powerful character with immense control over his entire situation.

Welles created an illusion in cinematography that is a critical realistic quality described through the concept of continuity. The idea introduces a nonrepresentational aspect of reality. Moreover, currently, audiences are used to the abstractions above; hence, they cannot be easily noticed. The aesthetics of the reality characterized by the camera’s concentrated focus on Kane exacts an affiliation to the real world that maintains the consciousness of the reality apart from the artifice abstraction. 

Throughout the movie, the cinematography techniques compliment the development of the narrative and plot structure through the lighting positioning and perspective. It was an innovative aesthetic developed by Welles during the time of the production of the film. Additionally, the film’s achievement on narratives was primarily achieved through the use of multiple narrators and flashbacks. The use of narrators eliminates the element of awareness in the audience and allows Welles to present various conflicting information and accounts of the 

Get quality help now

Dr. Diane

Verified writer

Proficient in: Movies

4.9 (280 reviews)
“She understood my main topic well and follow the instruction accordingly. She finished the paper in a timely manner! I would definitely hire her again! ”

+75 relevant experts are online

More Essay Samples on Topic

banner clock
Clock is ticking and inspiration doesn't come?
We`ll do boring work for you. No plagiarism guarantee. Deadline from 3 hours.

We use cookies to offer you the best experience. By continuing, we’ll assume you agree with our Cookies policy.