Elements of Film
1.) “Citizen Kane” is one of the most influential films ever made, discuss this statement.
The assertion that Citizen Kane is the most influential movie ever made is an assertion which is, if nothing else, interesting. When the American Film Institute compiled its list of the top 100 greatest films made, Citizen Kane was awarded the prestigious honor of first place. This is an effect of the many advanced, varied, and at the time (1941) futuristic techniques which Orson Welles employed in his direction of the film. Up till Kane’s release no one had seen a film which was so complete and deep. Welles’s use of light and shadow, speed of camera, and deep focus in set construction were all things which had been done in movies before, but they had never all been done in one movie. What was more each of these individual elements worked together with such harmony that they developed a character, Charles Foster Kane, with whom we all develop some kind of emotional connection.
2.) What had Orson Welles done in his first 23 years of life to warrant the Hollywood film industry offering complete creative control to a first time film maker?
Welles began his Theatre and radio career in 1936 working for the Federal Theatre Project. His first job was to direct a play for the Theatre project’s Negro theater unit, he gave them an adaptation of Macbeth called Voodoo Macbeth, which premiered in Harlem to rapturous applause. That same play would later tour the country, and when its main actor fell ill, Welles would step in and play the role in blackface. Welles worked on several more projects for the government such as, Horse Eats Hat, and The Cradle will Rock but eventually Welles created the Mercury Theater. Mercury Theater was a play company for its first year, but in its second became a radio station which managed to receive an hour’s time slot every week on the CBS broadcasting stations dedicated to giving adapted radio-plays of great literature. On October 30th, 1938 that play was of H.G. wells War of the Worlds set in contemporary New Jersey, the radio-play was so well done that many across the nation thought it was a news cast describing a Martian invasion. In everything Welles had done up to his 23rd birthday he had never received a poor review and had always greatly exceeded expectation, which may have been why RKO gave him such a privilege.
3.) Pick an extended scene or sequence from “Citizen Kane” and discuss the story telling technique by analyzing any combination of its component parts (direction, writing, performance, cinematography, production design, art direction, editing, sound, score, etc.)
In the scene during which Kane’s gives his campaign speech we see Welles give both an outstanding performance as an actor, yet also give a dramatically well-tuned scene of foreshadowing. In the scene we immediately see a huge contrast between the bright lights on the auditorium stage, and the black darkness of the audience. In the light Welles, acting as Kane, gives is enjoying giving rousing speech primarily about his plans to fire boss Jim Getties. Yet in the dark we don’t see the audience return the voracious applause which those on stage give Welles, rather in the few close ups of the audience that we do get we see the people Kane cares about merely looking on, seeming less to agree with him, and appearing more to size him up. In the rest of the story which follows Kane’s life takes a serious turn for the worst and he begins to lose everything he once had. This scene’s sense of foreboding combined with its elegant acting is masterful, certain unlike anything done before and perhaps like nothing ever done since.