Citizen Kane - Sequence Analysis Paper
Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Welles, is perhaps one of the world’s greatest movies ever produced. Viewers journey the life of one man, Charles Foster Kane, from his idealistic days of being the “people’s champion,” to his ultimate demise resulting from his lust for the American dream of fame and success. From the scene depicting Kane’s meeting Jim Gettys, the audience observes that Kane has aborted his youthful ambitions and has become self-absorbed, which leads to his downfall. Welles conveys this to viewers in this scene by mise en scene, camera angles, movement, lighting, and narrative.
The scene opens with a shot of Kane and his wife, Emily Norton, arriving at Susan’s building where Jim Gettys is waiting. The camera zooms in on Kane and Norton standing at the door and finally a medium shot is obtained. This shots shows the importance of the two and the building they are about to enter. The only light provided comes from the double doors, which separate the two. They enter the building and Kane receives a stiff look from his wife because of the landlord’s familiarity with Kane. The camera follows the two up the stairway.
In the next shot, the low angle camera follows Kane as he ascends the stairs. This shot makes Kane look powerful and invincible. Kane and Norton first encounter Susan at the top of the stairwell in the doorway which is light up. Before Susan can finish her sentence, Gettys emerges at the center of the doorway, which places all importance on him. The lighting comes from the room behind Gettys, so he is nothing more than a dark shadow symbolizing his evil and corruption.
Next, a medium shot of all four characters is taken at eye-level. All four of them will be affected by the forthcoming events and are trapped in the situation. The lighting in this scene shines on everyone facing Gettys, but leaves him as the dark figure. Emotions between Kane and Gettys come to a head and confrontation is destined.
The camera then changes to a medium close-up of Kane and Gettys squaring off with Norton placed in between to calm to the emotional tensions. Lighting plays another key role here because Norton is the only one light up, leaving Kane and Gettys as darkened beings. This visual symbolism is apparent throughout the rest of the scene as well.
In the next shot, Kane and Norton are portrayed with a medium shot while discussion continues about the love affair and its role in affecting the election. Susan then enters the scene since she too will be affected by Getty’s plot. Kane and Susan are placed side by side in the frame because it is their affair that has led to the situation. Once again, Kane is nothing more than a shadow.
The film now switches to a medium shot of [next page]