16 May 2012
- Citizen Kane is one of the most influential films ever made. Discuss this statement.
Citizen Kane is indeed one of the most influential movies ever made because of Orson Welles' desire to do what had never been done before with lighting, deep-focus photography, and the idea of a non-linear narrative. These three facets are just a small sample of the number of things that he did.
In terms of lighting, the common idea of the times was to use the invisible style. This meant that the lights illuminating the set would be not visible to the audience. They would be off camera or hidden in some way. Welles took a different approach. He used lighting in a more natural way, with some of the shots looking almost directly into the light source, creating silhouettes of the characters in the shot. This is especially evident in the beginning of the movie when the news reel guys are talking about Charles Foster Kane, with the projector still on.
The deep-focus photography utilized by Welles was an idea of very long shots, with the camera very far away, with a large field of view, as with the scene with the speech when he is running for governor. Most movies of the time used very clear and distinct shots of what was going on, while deep-focus shots often gave the audience a sense of the scale of the shot, rather than the action occurring within it.
Citizen Kane begins with a man's death, and continues through a series of flashbacks and stories told by those who knew him. This makes for a non-linear narrative, unlike most movies at the time which started at the beginning of a story, and ended at the end. Citizen Kane starts with a broad overview, in a newsreel style, then jumps back to his childhood and progresses through his death.
Most of the above may seem very commonplace and usual to have in movies, but Citizen Kane was the first movie to utilize these techniques in a society where the rules governed everyone's moves. Orson Welles seemed to make it a point to break each and every one.
- What had Orson Welles done in the first 23 years of life to warrant the Hollywood Film Industry offering complete creative control to a first time filmmaker?
A big part of what moved their hand and influence them to use Welles as their man was his prior involvement with Broadway, and his success there. He had success in theater since he was a child, and this led to his formation of the Mercury Theatre in New York. He enjoyed much success here, both acting and directing, his most notable event being the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, which resulted in his name being spread all around the country. That's when Hollywood wanted to get him to work on films. RKO studios wanted him so badly that they gave him a budget of $500,000, a sum that was never given to a young, unproven director.
This caused many of the concurrent directors to become very angry with Welles, having just flown on the scene, and thus competed with him. However, when Citizen Kane came out, they knew that this guy was truly a good director, and not just some up-start without any grounding.
- Pick an extended scene or sequence and discuss the storytelling technique by analyzing any combination of its component parts (direction, writing, performance, cinematography, production design, art direction, editing, sound, score, etc.)
The scene where Kane walks into the newspaper office to talk with this friend Leland, who was drunk and asleep on his typewriter, Welles' uses a fair amount of low angle shots to make the subjects look more important than the audience, similar to how a child would see a fight between parents. This, combined with the performance of the actors, who were using method acting, makes for a powerful scene. Method acting is the technique where actors do not flourish their actions, as in on stage, but rather use simple, real-life expressions and reactions to what has been said.