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Movie “Citizen Kane”, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 729

Essay

While many scenes in Citizen Kane demonstrate striking modernity and innovation in visual style, one brief scene commands particular notice.  As Kane begins his interest in the newspaper industry and acquires the failing New York Inquirer, he is informed that he cannot hope to compete with a rival paper.  That paper boasts a staff of the most respected and powerful journalists of the day, and a photograph of this group is shown. In the background, there is the discussion regarding how hopeless Kane’s position is, in the face of this competition.  In a fluid switch of scenes, the photograph “comes to life”; suddenly, all the journalists are now being photographed as members of Kane’s staff.

This is an extraordinary effect, and in several ways.  First, it accomplishes an element films often struggle with, that of expressing the passage of time.  In this case, it is a matter of a few years, which renders the task even more difficult because there are no noticeable changes in the characters’ appearances or surroundings to clearly indicate that time has gone by.  Then, it is a brief scene that powerfully establishes the nature of Kane, and in a way necessary to the film at this stage.  The audience has learned that he is impetuous and rich, but there is no evidence of his tenacity until this moment.  The purchase of the newspaper should mark a poor and expensive mistake.  This scene, however, reveals how Kane will operate in the future.  When faced with an impossible challenge, he consumes it.  Equally effective here is how Kane reacts to his own triumph, as he witnesses the documentation of his victory.  He is genial and assured, indicating that his confidence was vindicated.  It must be reinforced that the scene is only seconds long.  It is a stunning moment of how a visual element can immensely add dimension to a story.

Throughout the entire film, Citizen Kane relies on visual components and cinematography as much as it does on narrative, if not more so.  It is, first of all, a rapidly paced movie, particularly in the earlier scenes of Kane’s progress as a young man.  The dull landscape of his boyhood home is followed by this contrast, which represents the exuberance of both Kane and his new, metropolitan world.  For example, in the dinner party scene with the dancing girls, there is a cinematic recklessness; Mr. Bernstein, shouting out jokes and comments from the table, seems almost as active as the chorus girls themselves.  Kane is just beginning his rise, and the scene capture this in a giddy and explosive way.

Conversely, the film has a rhythm that provides contrast in timing and emphasis.  When Kane’s parents are preparing to send him away, the camera creates multiple fields of distance between the characters.  In one extended shot, Mrs. Kane is in the foreground, dominating, as her husband, off to the side, is ignored in his protests.  Then, and daringly, she looks at no one here; she nearly addresses the camera, which gives her a larger-than-life persona as a kind of deity, orchestrating the boy’s future.  This same use of distance, and of light and shadow, also accentuates the isolation and despair of Susan Kane, huddled over a jigsaw puzzle on the floor of the vast estate.  These latter scenes of her imminent collapse are literally foreshadowed by the striking montage of her preparing for her opera debut.  It is somewhat established that she does not have the ability to fulfill the role of opera diva Kane demands for her, but this is emphasized more effectively in the montage through action, not dialogue.  More exactly, as the audience sees Susan in full costume, desperately trying to perform the work, there is a brilliant use of opera itself; her attempts to sustain high notes come out as screams, just as the camera moves in quickly in cruel close-ups.  The scene is also fast-paced, setting up an acceleration indicating doom, just as the visual element of her being in full costume reflects her condition as a “trapped prize” of Kane’s.  This total effect of overt emphasis, in various forms, is evident throughout the movie, as pacing and camera focus alternately create urgency or dread.  It is, in fact, introduced when multiple, overlapping, and very brief scenes of snow covering Kane’s sled convey both a future occurring elsewhere, and a sense of loss ignored.

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