Citizen Kane Analysis


Mise-en-scéne: Analysis

  • 0:00 – Scene begins with Kane playing in the snow because he is the focus of the scene/what adults are talking about, zooms out to view three adults talking about him (adoption); Charlie is in all black to contrast him against his white and grey snowy background
  • 0:19 – Mother is largest in frame because she is the dominant of the conversation, with the two men in the middle ground; the mother and Mr. Thatcher are both in dark black clothes while the father is in white to show the sides of the argument, the father is arguing to keep the child while the mother is signing him away to Mr. Thatcher
  • 0:28 – Kane in background as little kid behind all three adults, gives of vibe of innocence because of small size in shot
  • 0:29 – Father has his hands in his pockets, sign of uncertainty in the character
  • 0:45 – All three characters are angled towards Kane in window in first third (rule of thirds) of the shot because he is the focus of the adults’ conversation
  • 0:45 – Mother and Mr. Thatcher are sitting down as they are on the same side, agree that Kane should leave their current household while the father is standing up and arguing/disagreeing with the other two
  • 1:12 – Moves closer towards the table in a final act to get them to understand; “i’m asking you for the last time”
  • 1:33 – After he finally agrees after being offered money he becomes small in the frame and moves to the background
  • 1:43 – After the mother signs the papers, she walks to the window and suddenly is very small in the frame compared to the other two characters, referencing how defeated she must feel after signing over the rights to her child
  • 1:47 – Cuts to close up of mother looking out upon her son with the father slightly larger than Mr. Thatcher in the background of the mother. She is the dominant of the frame
  • 1:53 – Thatcher steps forward in frame as he asks to meet the child, signifies growing/asserting dominance, important plot point

Sound and Editing: Notes

  • Editing
    • Continuity editing
      • Cut
      • Dissolve
        • Used commonly by George Melies – A Trip To The Moon
      • Parallel action
        • Cutting back to a different story that takes place at the same time
        • “meanwhile, back at the ranch…”
        • Forms understanding and appreciation of both stories
        • Ex. Star Wars
    • Classical cutting
      • Cutting to several different angles/characters/locations to give details to the story
    • Montage editing (pioneered by the Russians)
      • The juxtaposition of images to create new meaning not found in either individual shot by itself
      • “2+2=4”
      • Focus is on edits/movement of pictures
    • Discontinuity editing
      • Meaning through juxtaposition
      • Emphasizes dynamic, often discontinuous relationships between shots
    • Kuleshov Experiment
  • Sound
    • Convey:
      • Space
      • Location
      • Mood
      • Character’s state of mind
      • Meaning and information to the viewer

Sound: Analysis

  • 0:00 – Charlie’s voice is dominant, shouting/playful
  • 0:11 – Charlie’s voice fades into background but remains present to convey location of characters in relation to eachother as his mother and Mr. Thatcher begin to talk, kane’s voice remains as a constant background noise for the rest of the clip until his mother shouts his name
  • 0:20 – Sound of footsteps and creaky wood floors as the adults walk to the table to convey more about the location (old, wooden house)
  • 1:09 – Rustling of papers as the mother signs them
  • 1:45 – The mother opens the window and one can hear the sound of wind go by, referencing the snow storm taking place
  • 1:46 – Close-up of the mother looking outside the window at Kane (offscreen), high pitched, eerie sounding music starts to play in background to intensify the mood, as mother shouts Charlie’s name his shouting in the background stops and there’s a moment of silence
    • Moment of silence, beginning of sad music, action of Mr. Thatcher taking a couple steps forward to become bigger in frame and him asking “don’t you think I’d better meet the boy?” all signifies an important plot point of the story, when Kane is taken away from his home
  • 1:55 – Right after Thatcher asks to see child, pitch of background music drops and signifies the growing/intensifying dread

Editing: Analysis

  • 1:45 – First and only cut of scene, straight/classical cut from backs of three characters to close up of mother with other two in the background to show significance of the emotion in the mother

Cinematography: Notes

  • Key light: illuminates one side of subject and gives shadow to other
    • Low key lighting: high ratio
    • Used for crime dramas, horror films and other more dramatic movies
  • Fill light: fills in shadows on side that is shadowed by key light
    • Low ratio: high key lighting
    • Used for comedies, less dramatic movies/scenes
  • Hard light: comes directly from source
    • Good for scary, serious, tense
  • Soft light: diffused, hits subject from variety of different angles, made by bouncing light of something
    • Used on glamorous stars, romantic situations and happier moments
  • Back light: light is behind subject
    • Abstracts subject
    • Used for scary characters
  • Edge or rim light: makes subject stand out from background
  • Frontal light: light is at same place as camera, leaves features looking flat
  • Halloween light: light shines up from under subject
    • Makes subject look threatening, scary, distorted
    • Like dutch angle of lighting
  • Proxemics=shot distance
  • Shot types molds our viewpoint
  • Close up people: more significant
    • Greatest dramatic impacts
  • Extreme long shot: dominated by background information
    • Any people are usually two small to recognize unless with context
  • Long shot: who what or where shot
  • Establishing shot: who is is scene, where they are in relation to everyone else, where they are, etc
  • Medium long shot: frames subject from knees up
  • Medium shot: waste up
    • Reduces background
    • Conveys interaction between characters
  • Close up: purely subject, no background
    • Punctuates impactful moments
  • Extreme closeup: close up but closer
    • Close up of object gives an object symbolic value, makes audience know that it is important
  • Camera angle: level/height of camera in relation to subject
  • Eye level: very neutral
    • How our eyes see things
  • Low angles: camera is lowered, shooting up at subject
    • Portrays subject as powerful and threatening
    • Portrays someone impressive or heroic or admirable
    • “I look up to ____”
    • Low angle an be use differently according to context
  • High angle: camera is looking down on subject
    • Makes someone look vulnerable or weak
  • Extreme high angle: camera is placed directly above camera
    • Makes audience disoriented
  • Dutch angle: slanted camera angle
    • Makes audience feel unbalanced
  • Tilt: camera pivots vertically up and down on stationary axis
  • Pan: camera stays n one spot but pans over subject left to right
  • Tracking shot: camera moves with subject
  • Crane shot: makes camera unbound from natural bounds
  • Handheld: shaky look
    • Creates sense of realism or documentary vibe
  • Zoom = amateur
    • Looks artificial because relation of background and subject doesn’t move
  • Moving camera: found in movies
    • Looks more realistic and cinematic

Cinematography: Analysis

Camera Angles and Movement
  • 0:05 – Camera track backwards and upwards from Charlie in the snow to reveal his mother and then Mr. Thatcher a couple seconds later
  • 0:14 – Camera is continuing to track backwards at an eye level angle, reveals father, all three characters start to walk backwards towards the table
  • 1:09 – Camera angles upwards to keep father in frame and to show his dominance as he approaches the table in a final plea
  • 1:25 – Camera angles down to the mother signing the adoption papers, father’s upper half is no longer in frame, in a way cuts him out after he finally agrees
  • 1:33 – Camera moves upwards with mother as she stands up, Mr. Thatcher stands up right after he, camera is clearly focused on tracking mother’s movements as she is the dominant of the shot
  • 1:39 – Camera tracks with Mother back to window as she looks/calls to Charlie outside
Shot Types
  • 0:00 – Begins with long shot of Charlie playing in the snow, gives a sense of where he is in relation to the house, and the location of the house (somewhere snowy/wintertime)
  • 0:15 – As camera moves backwards, introduces the three characters inside the house with a medium-long shot; conveys the interactions between the three characters but also gives a small sense of setting and relation to Charlie outside by including the window in the shot
  • 0:29 – After characters sit down, moves to a medium shot of Mr. Thatcher and the mother while the father continues to stand in the frame showing from the knees and up
  • 1:43 – As the mother walks to the window with her back to the camera, she becomes full size in the frame while the other two characters are shot from the mid-thigh and up
  • 1:46 – Cuts to close-up of the mother looking out upon her child, meant to intensify her emotions, Mr. Thatcher is in the background while the father is in the middle ground until Mr. Thatcher moves forward to closer to the middle ground
  • 0:00 – Begins with Charlie filmed with high-key lighting, portrays a happier and more neutral mood, not a lot of shadows
  • 0:17 – Light is comming from almost directly from the left side of the characters (our right side) and is leaving one half of their face in almost complete shadows **meaning?
  • 0:29 – After sitting down at the table the characters are now illuminated in 3-Point lighting and soft light, with not a lot of shadows but still some
  • 1:49 – After cut to close-up, lighting seems very flat, not a lot of shadows

Narrative and Genre: Notes

  • Narrative: the story
  • Narration: the act of telling a story
  • Narrator: who or what tells the story
  • “The narrator delivers the narration that conveys the narrative”
  • In every movie the camera is a narrator
    • Camera narration
  • Some movies use more than one narrator
  • First person narrator: a character in the narrative who typically imparts information in the form of voice-over narration
  • Diegetic: what is in the world of the film
  • Non-diegetic: things that are added in to build on the diegetic stuff, like soundtracks and titles

Narrative and Genre: Analysis

  • Diegetic: Dialogue, setting, etc.
  • Non-diegetic: Background music
  • Narration: Camera narrator (no outside narrator)
  • Genre: Drama

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