“Citizen Kane” is an incredible film, authored and directed by Orson Welles in 1941.
Fames for its respective elements, the film made considerable advances, breaking from
conventional classic elements of Hollywood Cinema. It is regarded as the direct predecessor of
film noir exploits cinematic technique effectively, and for its type, produces an incredible and
unique film. This paper offers an analysis of the key cinematic features that separates “Citizen
Kane” from other Hollywood films of the era.
One of the most notable contributions of “Citizen Kane” in cinematography is its use of
deep focus. Deep focus refers to encompassing everything, including the background, in the
frame instead of entailing only the things and characters in the foreground in focus. Altmans
(1994) notes that this strategy allows the filmmaker to express overlapping actions, necessitating
a close structuring of mise-en-scene. This contrasts with the making of the traditional
Hollywood, characterized by a more static mis-ene-scene with the things and characters being
centrally placed in the frame and rarely out of focus. Again, deep focus calls for an appropriate
combination of lighting, composition, and camera lens type to attain the anticipated result.
Successful manipulation of mise-en-scene to enhance a deep focus actively engages the entire
frame space without bringing confusion. This strategy effectively enables the successful
presentation of Kane's loss of control and his seclusion by precisely showing spaces where Kane
has power and where he has no command.
Again, the film employed low-angle cameras to show a viewpoint that is facing upwards,
allowing the ceilings in the background to be captured. This aspect deviates from the traditional
Hollywood production form, seeing that the limited shooting space on a stage could not allow
“CITIZEN KANE” ANALYSIS 3
Hollywood films to be shot at such an angle. Though trivial, the change represents a very great
shift in the filmmaking industry.
The film is also credited for popularizing “film noir, as a sub-genre. Film noir emerged
between the 1930s and 1950s, covering suspicions and anxieties that erupted from World War II
and the cold war. It also entailed unusual strategies like jagged, slanted, or interrupted camera
inclinations and physical alterations of space and time, among other varieties of infrequent
camera shots. The use of minimal light that enshrouds characters in the space of dirty dealings
and shadows is also a central feature of film noir, and "Citizen Kane" embraced most of these
features (Altman, 1994). By so doing, the film, which became prominent and famous, helped to
further the convictions of film noir in a great way that no other film had done. The film noir's
attributes advanced and rooted for in "Citizen Kane" challenged the Hollywood productions that
had been using technicolor exclusively. This way, the movie favored the reputation of film noir
over traditional Hollywood.
Typically, “Citizen Kane” deviated from traditional Hollywood conventions by
establishing deep focus, different camera angles, and a unique narration style. These features
make the film stand out and bring out new styles in the industry. With the time, the elements
used in "Citizen Kane" became standards for other directors, accentuating its prominence. This
implies that the deviation from traditional Hollywood elements has served as an elevation point
for the film and the filmmaking industry. To date, the film is still considered among the films
that demonstrated a great extent of advancement and innovativeness.
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Altman, R. (1994). Deep‐focus sound: Citizen Kane and the radio aesthetic. Quarterly Review
of Film & Video, 15(3), 1-33.