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Citizen Kane – A Scene Analyses

“Rosebud”. The quote that inspired a whole story about a man and his legacy.

In most of the reviews i have done or will do i will thoroughly discuss whats going on, but here its better that its left to be a mystery, Although not a suspense movie in the typical sense, this movie very much so works off suspense. In fact the whole movie leaves you in suspense with the word rosebud the whole time.

Citizen Kane utilizes camera shot, and angles, and structural designs never before seen in the cinema industry. This is what I will be briefly discussing this time around.

Orson Wells and eccentric, experimenting camera man Gregg Toland, deliver an interesting set of camera cuts and angles never before used in that time period to capture Kane on film.

The most memorable of these would be the fade in/out shot from the beginning where “Rosebud” is first mentioned. As we are introduced to Kane’s Xanadu, we see the side of the castle (grandiose, intimidating), as if we are standing at the farthest gate. All is dark around the castle. We see a light behind it (most likely the moon), and a shadowy outline of the castles intimidating form. But look closely here a single light shines from a window in the upstairs area of the castle.

As the shot fades away we are now brought up to a higher angle and can see the window in a much better fashion. The light seems to explode from the darkened castle as we creep closer. The light illuminates the darkened areas around the window and we can see the intricate detail around the window. Ornate sculpture put there by Kane to show his love for the fancy. The glow pulses out and as it starts to become mesmerizing we cut to the next shot.

We are now perched outside the window, looking in. A single light glows, a reading lamp perhaps, over a bed. We see what looks like legs under a blanket, and a bed. The window itself is even ornate the fixture itself carved from stone. Suddenly the window goes black, only the moon casts a shadow on the window now. Faint, pale lines cast across the surface of a stone Goliath. A pause, and the light comes back up.

We are now inside the room through movie editing magic and expert lighting tricks such as fading the light out on one side of a scene and having it come up on the other. Then you splice them together and voila you have a beautiful, and stunning cutaway scene. This is what I’m talking about. The fantastic camera work of Gregg Toland. Shots that made this movie a disliked piece of work in its time, things that made it taboo to movies, are what render it stunning today. Its actually unnerving because when the light went out I didn’t know what to expect. One minute we were outside then, BAM, right in the room. As we focus in we see the light, the moonlight coming in through the window lighting Kane’s deathbed.

We cut from that scene to a snowfall. White and mysterious. Nowhere in specific. The snow is heavy and beautiful falling in giant white flakes against the black sky.   The snow fills up the lens for about 1-3 seconds and then we fade in to a little house. The house doesn’t seem to be anywhere in specific but it seems quaint. A tiny cottage, like something you would expect to see on little house on the prairie. The snow is falling all around the house softly and majestically.

All of a sudden the house falls back as the camera zooms out sharply. We see the house is not an actual house, but a house in a snow-globe. This snow-globe rests in Kane’s hand. We see the fingers slowly twitch. The snow-globe shifts position ever so slightly, then another abrupt cut.

We see an extreme closeup of Kane’s mouth. Kane utters his final and iconic last words…”Rosebud”. Kane, the tyrant that he had become, lay dead on a bed covered in white, making us briefly think of his childhood sorrows, and the man he once was, almost a symbol of forgiveness maybe. White is a pure color afterall, it represents good. As he finishes the word, the snow fades in and blends over the whole picture as we cut away from Kane’s mouth to the snow-globe rolling out of his hand as he dies. The snow continues to blend in with the picture. The snow-globe hits the edge of the bed and falls. It bounces down 2 carpeted steps and meets its fate on the stone floor of Kane’s Xanadu. We see the snow-globe shatter in an extreme close up, and then cut over to the nurse in a fisheye lens shot. We see her approach and enter Kane’s room.

We are now t the head of Kane’s bed and we see the nurse most of her face obscured by shadow, fold Kane’s arms over one another, (moonlight providing the only light once again) and slowly draw the sheets up and over Kane’s head, ever so slowly and coldly, and then we fade to black.

These are the first of just a bunch of interesting camera shots utilized by this movie to give it feeling and dark emotion. Plenty of shots are done with low light, and shadows being cast. These invoke a lot of feelings of mystery and suspense throughout. Low angle shots were used to help fill the camera with activity and props even if space didn’t allow it. This is the genius of Orson Welles and Gregg Toland. To turn water…into wine.  These effects added to the realism, by allowing Wells to have scenery constructed with full, or partial ceilings constructed on them. This allowed for rooms to look like they were a natural size and allowed for the sets to look more realistic. No giant painted walls because the frame was too big.

Full of interesting cinematography, and a suspenseful, deeply emotional storyline, the story of Citizen Kane delivers a well rounded story, with a great use of the cameras and recording. Overall 3.5 Jason masks out of 5. Kane is a winner.

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~ by Russell Weinberg on October 14, 2010.

One Response to “Citizen Kane – A Scene Analyses”

  1. The way you mentioned the nurse’s face being shrouded in shadow stuck out to me. Reminded me of how Leland said to the reporter in the nursing home that nurses are never pretty.
    Also, when you mention innocence, childhood, and the colour white so often, I feel like you’re trying your best to not give away any plot spoilers. 😀

    I still have a crapton of stuff to post on my blog. -__- stop by when I’m done. 😀

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