Elements of Film
May 8, 2012
1) “Citizen Kane” is one of the most influential films ever made. Discuss this statement.
The film “Citizen Kane” is seen as influential in the movie industry for many reasons. One such reason being the vast difference in cinematography used compared to any other movie being made during that time period. Since this was Orson Welles’ first movie, he wasn’t very knowledgeable in the film techniques being used and this led to a drastically different style of shots used in the movie. The angles and focus that he used had never been attempted due to stage restrictions or budget so when he found a way around these issues, the resulting images came off as a brave new perspective in filming. Another hugely influential aspect to “Citizen Kane” is the way Kane’s story is told. There is not one but several narrators recounting his life through different perspectives and time periods that are not always chronological. Although using flashbacks in movies was not entirely new, they had never been used as a complete form of storytelling in such a way that the story relied directly on them. This way of storytelling provided excellent character development for Kane as we were able to see how his personality and business practice changed so radically throughout his life but shown in very short periods of time.
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 filmmaker?
Before coming to America, Welles had done some acting that drove him to move to America in hopes for a future on Broadway. Once he discovered his fame had not followed him, he went on to write a book called Everybody’s Shakespeare which started as a simple writing project and turned into a hugely successful series. Although this aided in his career and begot some fame, it is not this that I believe warranted Hollywood to give him complete control. After a few years in America, Welles went into acting in the theatre and more importantly, the radio. In October of 1938, one of the most famous and controversial radio broadcasts of all time took place due to a story performed by Orson Welles. Welles was doing a reading from the book The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells that he had adapted to the radio. Although there was an introduction to the broadcasts, the format in which it was conducted confused listeners who began listening after the introduction. The reading style of a news bulletin is what reportedly threw many listeners into a panic by actually believing they were being invaded by Martians. This stunt brought Welles instant fame and the attention of many Hollywood offers trying to pull him into the business. It was from this fame that he was offered the position to have full creative control of his very first movie, invoking much controversy and jealousy towards this newcomer by more accomplished directors.
3) Pick an extended scene or sequence from “Citizen Kane” 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 I will be analyzing is the description of Kane’s first marriage during an interview of one of his old friends and coworkers, beginning with him saying Kane and Emily had “a marriage just like any other marriage.” When the flashback first opens, you see a happy couple just sitting down to dinner. They are reminiscing about recent times together and are in good spirits. The flashback jumps several times, showing different stages in their marriage and the slow deterioration of their love for each other. In the beginning, they eat by each other’s side, which quickly changes to dinners across the table. The place setting also changes with time, adding more and more in between the two, blocking their view of one another. Their quips as well change with time from playful jokes to spiteful attacks. Kane’s work at the paper factory seems to quickly develop into a problem that takes away a huge chunk of his time with his wife, who rarely sees him in the end of the marriage. Kane’s stance on what he publishes changes as well from the bare facts, to opinionated arguments, to pure manipulation, stating that the people will believe what he tells them to believe. This scene really stood out to me as you see the couples’ entire marriage over a course of three minutes. The editing that tied together each shot was flawless and did not confuse that there was a passage of time. This can also be attributed to the costume design and makeup that showed the couple getting a little bit older with each flashback. Orson Welles’ acting is what really sold the whole scene. He flawlessly portrayed the aging of a man whos work and success directly affected his personality over an extended period.