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The Film that Shakes the World: Citizen Kane Essay

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The film, Citizen Kane is recognized as a significant historical event that forever changed the face of film history. A primary reason for this is its pioneering use of mise-en-scene, which refers to the manipulation of what appears in the frame to both guide our attention and enhance dramatic effects. (Mcgraw, 112) There are a number of ways in which mise-en-scene can be used, but for this essay I chose to go into great detail about just two of its most prominent applications featured in Citizen Kane. Delving into the film’s manipulation of lighting and framing, I reveal why exactly this film is so highly revered.
Through the exploitation of single-source lighting, Orson Welles’ inventively enhanced the meaning of his film, Citizen Kane. At the time, this was a revolutionary idea because major Hollywood films typically strived to be very well lit in order to ensure the visibility of the entire frame. (Desjardins, 24) However, by purposefully leaving certain areas in the frame unlit, Welles disposed of this convention to add a layer of depth to the meaning of the film. A perfect example of this expressive use of lighting can be seen at the beginning of the film when the camera shifts to the reporters behind a newsreel proclaiming the death of Charles Foster Kane (shown in the image directly below this paragraph). There are a number of ways in which these reporters could have been filmed to deliver the same surface meaning, but Welles chose to use a very strong backlight in order to reveal only their silhouettes. In doing so, Welles essentially told the audience not to focus on these people and who they are. Rather, the focus stayed on Kane. (Ovie, 2) Emphasizing that the identity of these characters is unimportant, this manipulati...


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...ighered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/dl/free/0073535109/963721/Ch04_The_Shot_Mise_en_Scene_cpp.pdf>.
• Hurt, Nicholas. "Citizen Kane and the Active Speaker." N.p., n.d. Web. 7 May 2014.
• Malcom, Derek. "Citizen Kane." N.p., n.d. Web. 7 May 2014. .
• Deconstructing Cinematography: Citizen Kane. Perf. Videomakers. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 May 2014. .
• Desjardins, Mary. "Citizen Kane, Genres, and Dialogism." N.p., n.d. Web. 7 May 2014. .
• Wood, Robin. Hitchcock Films Revisited.” N.p., n.d. Web. 7 May 2014.
• Ovie, Dr. Phil M. "Who's Afraid of Charles Foster Kane." N.p., n.d. Web. 7 May 2014. .



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