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Orson Welles’ 1941 film Citizen Kane chronicles the perplexing life of Charles Foster Kane. One of the key players in Kane’s life is his second wife, Susan. A very naïve young lady, she is swept into the whirlwind that is Kane’s life, and ultimately loses any control she had over her own life. Throughout the film, Welles uses a number of various techniques to portray Susan’s complicated situation with Kane.
One of the ways Welles portrays Kane’s dominance over Susan is by shooting her at a high angle with the camera. By doing so, it makes it seem as though Susan is not only literally, but figuratively being looked down upon by Kane. This type of high angle shot helps to belittle Susan, and makes it easier for her character to be controlled by Kane. Susan is also often in the shadow of her husband, which is a very literal interpretation of how their marriage works. One specific example of both of these techniques is when Susan tells Kane she wants to quit singing after the bad reviews are written about her performance in the papers. In this scene, Kane is irate and towers over Susan as he yells at and demeans her. The camera’s high angle and shadowing on Susan’s face from Kane’s body really portray the sheer dominance of Kane over his wife and her life.
A couple of other film techniques employed by Welles are the close-up and the point of view shot. Each of these methods provides a deeper look into a character or the way he or she views the world. The close-up is very infrequently used during the film, and naturally, Kane is the focus of most of the shots; however, Susan is filmed with this technique also. The use of close-up shots is especially noticeable when Kane first meets Susan, and they go up to her apartment. This type of shot helps to reveal more about Susan’s character, and also provides the intimacy that is felt between the couple in that scene. During several scenes, Welles films Susan from Kane’s point of view. Most notably, the scene inside Xanadu where the couple is discussing going on a picnic is a great example of this type of film technique. The majority of the scene is from Kane’s point of view, which is across the room from Susan. In doing this, Welles has made Susan barely visible on the screen; she is lost in the expanse of the room. This scene functions to show the distance that Kane and Susan have in their marriage, and how she is still so oppressed by him.
In conclusion, the various film techniques that Welles uses in Citizen Kane do a great job of portraying the relationship between Kane and Susan. Whether the shots are close-up or from further away, each one has a greater significance than just what is on the screen. The shots help to reveal a little bit more about the nature of each character and also their relationship. Welles highly stylized type of film-making really helps to depict what could otherwise be lost on screen.