Citizen Kane (1941)

Citizen Kane Directed by Orson Welles, was way ahead of its time. One reason why i enjoyed it so much is because of how good of a job Orson Welles does at telling the story of Charles Kane’s life. The movie begins at the end of Charles Foster Kane’s life and shows his last breathless moment. After this moment, Welles takes you through Charles life from beginning to end through the highly subjective views of people Charles associated himself with.

One thing that became clear to me was the inventive use of lighting and shadowing in Citizen Kane.

For example in this scene above (this was after the reports were shown), “News on the March” a news reel detailing the life of Charles Kane. The lighting here, and the amazing use of shadows is casting doubt upon what the reporters are talking and speculating about. The reporters were discussing how they will add to this story of his life, and by using these methods Welles is telling us to not really trust them. In addition Welles is trying to show us that these news reporters are not the focal point of the film as you can not clearly see who they are, and are essentially faceless.

Another use of Shadowing in Citizen Kane that stood out to me, was when Susan and Charles were arguing it went back and forth until his shadow was cast upon her, and he got the final word in, showing how what Susan has said is unimportant. And to further illustrate this point, Welles used mostly High angle shots whenever he showed Susan (looking down on her) and Low Angle shots (showing how powerful he is) for the majority of time when he was shown.

(Charles Shadow over Susan)

One other thing i found particularly interesting was how the film began with the “No Trespassing” sign and drew us into his life in the beginning, and ended showing us the “No Trespassing” sign and it took us out. We as an audience find out what “Rosebud” meant but the people trying to figure it out in the movie do not, and this is evident by showing us the smoke (from burning his some of his possessions including his sled) leaving Xanadu at the end of the film.

(Xanadu at the end of Citizen Kane)

I believe you see and learn something new with every time you watch Citizen Kane, that is why to me it is timeless, and will remain an all time classic!

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13 Comments so far

  1.   Lorena Russi on September 22nd, 2011

    Yes, great comment on the use of lights and shadows. It was nothing short of inventive and you certainly illustrated that in the body of your argument. also, the lighting, in the scene after the news reel, is one of my fav$$

  2.   Amy Herzog on September 23rd, 2011

    This is a perfect example of identifying patterns through formal analysis– very nicely argued (and illustrated)!

  3.   Mitchell Mays-George on September 27th, 2011

    Great observations on light and shadows as well as the angle of the cameras.

  4.   rosemarie on October 4th, 2011

    I agree with you, Welles was way ahead of his time. It’s sad to me that he was never quite given the same freedom to make a film again as he had when making this one. I can only imagine what else he would have came up with if he had that opportunity again.

  5.   Dongsheng Ma on October 10th, 2011

    I like the last screen shot in your post. the long shot makes the whole screen full of mystery. Good article with pictures.

  6.   alivingston on October 11th, 2011

    Thanks guys!

  7.   zacklotkerblog on October 12th, 2011

    You made a very interesting point regarding how the shadows over the reporters cast doubt on what they say. I didn’t think of that, even though this is the second time I’ve seen the movie!
    Before this viewing, I simply thought of it as a cool way to transition from the stylized newsreel to the gritty reality.

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