“Film Analysis” MDST 144

Citizen Kane, (Orson Welles, 1941, an RKO production) is sought after by many as histories greatest cinematic achievement. It’s an intricate task to dispute the films artistic genius. Every infinitesimal aspect of Citizen Kane, ranging from the lighting to the camera work undoubtedly displays a vast shift in the process of film making at the start of the 1940’s. Director Orson Welles not only succeeds at telling a remarkable story, he shows it to us, the viewer, as well. The film is about a newspaper mogul, Charles Foster Kane, and his extraordinary yet depressing life. The common tale of a man who has it all and loses everything is seen in Citizen Kane, in addition to much more.

Citizen Kane wasn’t as well received at the box office as most would have thought. The film did win the Academy Award for best Screenplay, but lost out in both the best director, and best film categories. This was mainly because of the fact that the film encompassed a certain dark aura, clearly visible to the viewing public. In that particular point in history Americans were being faced with the greatest hardship of all, the Great Depression. The American people wanted to see joyous films in order to escape their harsh realities, not a film about a man brought up with riches, and then essentially dies with nothing but himself. Americans wanted to see fantasy productions such as The Wizard of Oz. They certainly did not want to pay for a film that expressed such realism, as Citizen Kane conveyed. The mere fact that the audience just simply could not relate to the film and its main character Charles Foster Kane, caused Citizen Kane to experience quite a blow at the box office. Some say if the film was released ten years after it had been originally released it would have been more well received than it is today. This notion is quite hard to believe.

Citizen Kane completely contradicted Americas current economic reality. Although the scene I will be discussing does in fact show the main character Charles Foster Kane¬† experiencing a substantial budget cut due to the Depression, he still cant be placed in the same category as the majority of the United States. He was a wealthy individual who wouldn’t be substantially effected by the Great Depression. Rather a marginal dent would¬† bestow upon the way he spends his money. Kane’s predicament was entirely unlike the majority of America during the Depression, rendering him seemingly unidentifiable to the public when this film was released.

Charles Foster Kane had just spoken to Thatcher, his guardian, and told him that he would lose a million this year, next year, and for the next sixty years. The scene is rather cheerful, the non-diegetic sound increases in volume to a moderately happier tune. This scene ends with a smile by Kane and follows into a more dramatic scene in the film, my favorite scene, mostly due to its swift dialogue. The non-diegetic sound ascends louder, changing into a more depressing tone. The back round noise ends quickly because we are about to hear some sad news. There is one single shot to the scene. Bernstein, Kane’s general manager, reads off a news letter with special notice to Mr.Kane. The camera frames the notice, exhibiting an extreme close-up of the letter. Welles darkens the room, portraying a fabulous exposition of mis-en scene. Welles places himself next to the window, where a gloomy shadow towers over him, as well as three massive windows. The windows, and the large space of the room was meant to signify how irrelevant the lives of Thatcher and Kane truly are in relation to the Great Depression. The shadow, and dimness was meant to signify the harsh realities of the Great Depression.

Orson Welles uses an over the shoulder shot of Bernstein reading the notice to Mr. Kane showing the expressions of both Thatcher and Kane. It was imperative to show both the reactions of Kane and Thatcher during this scene because the notice was regarding their money and well being. The scene consisted of long pauses, and harsh dialogue, a seemingly obvious ominous effect was meant to be shown. Towards the end of the scene Kane says some outrageous yet revealing words, “I always gagged on the silver spoon.” These words really do reveal the essence of Welles character. He also has a rather revealing conversation with Thatcher. Charles Foster Kane: “You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn’t been really rich, I might have been a really great man” Thatcher: “Don’t you think you are? Charles Foster Kane: “I think I did pretty well under the circumstances.” ‘Circumstances’, a rather interesting way of insinuating wealth. Any sane American during the Great Depression would have done whatever they had to in order to achieve wealth, but Kane had the inability to appreciate the vast world of riches.

This scene was vital to the character developments of Kane and Thatcher. It illustrated Kane’s displeasure with his wealth. Displeasure with wealth, what an inconceivable notion, especially for Americans to try and contemplate during the hardest of all economic periods in United States history.

Citizen Kane was a well made, fantastic film. Orson Welles ability to demonstrate a single characters entire personality without revealing the slightest thing about his personality was utterly magnificent. Citizen Kane expresses superb cinematography, art direction, and other significant cinematic elements, while still managing to tie its plot culturally in historical context. The film is one that can both educate us on the art of cinema, and historically as well. That is precisely what makes Citizen Kane the classic film that it is today.

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