Professor Martin P. Gigler
May 2, 2013
The classic masterpiece, Citizen Kane (1941), is probably the world's most famous and highly rated film, with its many remarkable scenes, cinematic and narrative techniques and innovations. The director, star, and producer were all the same individual - Orson Welles (in his film debut at age 25), who collaborated with Herman J. Mankiewicz on the script and with Gregg Toland as cinematographer. The film was a big controversy when it was first released on a delay (because of personal conditions with W.R. Hearst). It brings into light how a newspaper should react and also brings the corruption of politics. War was breaking out in Europe and throughout the entire film Kane states there will be no war. He ignores the fact people are being killed, tortured, and rounded up like livestock because of Adolf Hitler. The film was released on May 1, 1941 a few days before Joseph Stalin becomes premier of Russia, a day before Nazis took over Netherlands, and eight days before the English army breaks the German codes. During the first screening of Citizen Kane, it was viewed strictly as an entertainment source, not as an art source. The plot was very dry and moved quite slowly. The story line could have focused more on other areas of the plot and other characters to have made it more exciting. Some characters seemed to have no importance, but from an entertainment standpoint could have been built upon a little more. It was apparent, though, that the movie was to be used as an attack on the man Charles Foster Kane was supposed to be portraying. This fact did help keep attention on the film. The film's first sight is a No Trespassing sign hanging on a giant gate in the night's foggy mist, illuminated by the moonlight. The camera pans up the chain-link mesh gate, which dissolves and changes into images of great iron flowers or oak leaves on the heavy gate. On the crest of the gate is a single, silhouetted, wrought iron K initial. The gate surrounds a distant, forbidding-looking castle with towers. The fairy-tale castle is situated on a man-made mountain, obviously the estate of a wealthy man. The same shots are repeated in reverse at the very end of the film. The initial and concluding clash of realism and expressionism suggests in a subtle way, the theme of Citizen Kane. The movie is a visual masterpiece, a kaleidoscope of daring angles and breathtaking images that had never been attempted before. Toland perfected a deep-focus technique that allowed him to photograph backgrounds with as much clarity as foregrounds. Such as the scene where Kane's parents discuss his future while, as seen through the window, the child plays outside in the snow. There's also an extremely effective low-angle shot late in the film where Kane trashes Susan's room. Gregg Toland's camera set-ups are designed to frame characters in the oblique angles of light and shadow created by their artificial environment. There are no luminous close-ups in which faces are detached from their backgrounds. When characters move across rooms, the floors and ceilings move with them. This technique which is highly unusual, tends to dehumanize characters by reducing them to fixed ornaments in a shifting architecture. The choice of camera position was an important factor in getting across artistic and psychological effects. The structure of ``Citizen Kane'' is circular, adding more depth every time it passes over his life. The movie opens with newsreel obituary footage that briefs us on the life and times of Charles Foster Kane. The footage alone setup Kane as a media mogul. With commentary and certain scenes pointed out, Welles’ vision became more apparent. As the film went on it was easier to spot the deep focus or triangle shots, and the allusions to earlier scenes. Welles also used the lighting to portray the characters, their mindsets, and how they change during the course of the film.