Citizen Kane (1941)

PG   |    |  Drama, Mystery

Citizen Kane (1941) Poster

Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance.

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  • Jack Klugman at an event for Citizen Kane (1941)
  • Orson Welles and Dorothy Comingore in Citizen Kane (1941)
  • Orson Welles and Dorothy Comingore in Citizen Kane (1941)
  • Linwood G. Dunn in Citizen Kane (1941)
  • Citizen Kane (1941)
  • Orson Welles and Gregg Toland in Citizen Kane (1941)

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6 December 2006 | bigredintl
The Lighting Effects Used In 'Citizen Kane'
The limitations of the movie being in 'black and white' did not hinder the captivation of the viewer. The impact of Citizen Kane lies in mise-en-scene and the technical tools of film-making, lighting, framing, editing and angle. The most prominent cinematic technique used in Citizen Kane is probably the lighting. The director meant for it to be a dark picture with very heavy contrasts, so he used single source lighting. The objective was to use simple lighting devices in order to give the scene a certain ambiance and in some cases, to further develop the characters with the use of shadows. An example of single source lighting is when Thompson is reading Mr. Thatcher's memoirs. This single source light creates a sense of isolation which seems to accentuate Thompson's lonely quest. The way the light illuminates the room also says a great deal about Thatcher's personality, especially by how it illuminates the large portrait of him hanging on the wall. One of the most memorable times in the movie that a single light source was used is the scene where the reporters debate how they will add to the story. The bright light source that comes from the window is so soft that it, complimented by the cigarette smoke, covers most of the room in shadow. As a result, the characters are not easily seen. This scene is effective because it says a great deal about the reporters themselves, or at least how the directors wanted to portray them as; where they are not primary or main characters in the movie. Casting all of the reporters in shadow, implied that the director wanted the reporters to be seen as characters of no importance, not just as characters, but also as an institution when considering the media. The reporter scene also happens to be the strongest use of shadows and light, which is a more prevalent technique, used throughout the film that says more about character intentions and motivations. Shadows are used to express the ethical value of a character; they cast doubt on a character's reliability, or by the absence of shadow, display a character's innocence or truthful intentions. As opposed to the lighting of a scene, the use of shadow is more effective on a character. One of the most touching uses of shadow In the movie is during the scene where Kane reads the Inquirer's "declaration of principles", which he wrote. When he does this, he is cast in shadow as he reads the declaration but once he has finished reading, he is cast back into light. This says two things about Kane; regardless of whether his idealism is genuine, Kane does not have a strong enough character to persist with such principles. Shadows heavily used during the confrontation between Boss Gettys and Kane and his wife at the time at Susan Alexander's apartment.

There is one scene in particular where Susan is standing between Gettys and Kane. In this scene both men are cast completely in shadow as opposed to her who is completely in light. This can be used to signify that both men are can be deemed as very dishonest people. Susan on the other hand is the innocent person in this quarrel. She is the victim of both men's ambition, which has forced her between them. Shadows were also used later in the film in order to display Kane's superiority over Susan. This is when she reads the horrible review about her by Leyland in the Enquirer. She tells Kane that she wishes to quit, but he demands that she continues singing. He stands up over her and she is covered by his shadow for a moment, suggesting his dominance over her. He intimidates her and she does continue with her career. Quality, direction, colour and source of light are large aspects of the scene where the reporters decided to find out what 'rosebud' means and therefore state the plot of the film. The quality of light is differentiated throughout the scene. The intensity and direction of the light source change depending upon who is speaking and the sources are intensified as the speaker's relevance increases. The main reporter, Thompson and his editor, Mr. Ralston, are highlighted and shadowed according to how big their roles are at a given time. From the beginning of the scene, Ralston's face is shadowed and his movement around the room is limited. While he is deciphering what he thinks about the news reel depicting Kane's life, his face is shadowed and dark as he moves across the set. Citizen Kane is still respected and admired because of the groundbreaking cinematic techniques that are just as inspirational to filmmakers today as they were fifty years ago.

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