I’m still thinking about various aspects of Citizen Kane.
In a previous post, I discussed the use of camera angles by Orson Welles.
I also mentioned a YouTube video that I had found explaining the use of low camera angles in order to give Charles Foster Kane an imposing profile.
You know how it is. I went on YouTube to see the video about the low camera angle technique used by Orson Welles.
(By putting the camera below the floor, and, looking up at Charles Foster Kane, Welles was able to present Kane as an intimidating, authoritative pose.)
While watching that video, I noticed another YouTube video about how Orson Welles used blocking the scene to visually reinforce the theme of a particular film segment.
In particular, the video analyzed the scene towards the beginning of the movie when Kane’s mother, Kane’s father, and the banker were discussing the young boy’s future.
The video is interesting, and can be seen below.
In “Citizen Kane”, Orson Welles used blocking to subtly reinforce the theme. In this scene, as the YouTube video explains, notice how the mother (who is the decision maker) is always the most prominent physical force in the picture’s frame.
Also notice how the banker moves in and out of prominence as he and the mother plot the boy’s future.
Contrast this to the visual presentation of the father, who is presented as powerless in the system. Visually, he also is presented as weak, as he is always in the background.
Finally, notice that the young Charles Foster Kane, who is playing outside in the snow, can be seen in through the window throughout the scene.
Symbolically, notice how much little of the screen he takes up. He is powerless. While the decision about his entire future is being made inside, he plays outside, completely unaware (and occupying very little of the screen shot, totally in the background, but, notice, in focus).
Also, when the young Charles Foster Kane is not visible through the window, it is because his image is blocked by the foreboding image of one of his parents. This framing of the scene is consistent with the actual dynamic of the power structure at work. The mother is the central decision maker (and as such, dominates the camera), and, quite frankly, the wants of the young Charles Kane are immaterial (he is not visually present at the meeting to decide his future).
Or, the boy is also obscured from view when the father gives up, and turns his back to the camera to walk straight to the window to close the window. Lots of symbolism in that series of events. The father turns his back. The father closes the window, thus, further disconnecting from the boy.
Perhaps you have noticed in other films that, typically, only one aspect of the shot is in focus at a certain time.
If it’s a close-up, the background is out of focus. If it’s a distance shot, the close-up is out of focus.
Now, notice that in this scene in “Citizen Kane”, all dimensions of the shot are in focus at the same time.
The mother and the banker, in the front of the shot, are in focus. The father, often in the middle “dimension” of the shot, is also in focus.
Finally, little Charles Foster Kane, as a child playing outside, takes up the smallest screen space, is clearly in the distance background, but can be seen through the window in focus.
So, that’s two more techniques used by Orson Welles in “Citizen Kane”.
In summary, in an earlier post, we reviewed Orson Welles’ use of a low camera angle to make Charles Foster Kane appear “bigger than life.”
In this post, we discussed two more camera techniques used by Welles.
First, in framing the shot, Welles subtly reinforced the power system that was in place when the adults decided the young boy’s future.
Finally, we discussed the technique of having all dimensions of the shot in focus.
The foreground (often the mother and banker), the middle ground (often the father), and, the background (Charles Foster Kane, as a boy, playing outside) are all in focus at the same time.
“Citizen Kane” is on my list of My 101 Favorite Movies.