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The Significance of Cinematography in Citizen Kane

Among all the trinkets of world cinema, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane has significantly created a specific standard for excellence that all movies should look forward to similar excellence. Apart from its unique and first non-linear narrative of the film, the factor that has made this film an absolute master piece is Greg Tolland’s masterful cinematography. To be more specific, it needs to be mentioned that Greg Tolland’s cinematography established a trendsetting and also at the same time inventive visual storytelling technique. Orson Welles along with Greg Tolland worked in congruence to sustain a dependable pattern along with similar style. Also, implementation of this reliable style and patter did significant justice to the time and scale in which the narrative was significantly created.

As a matter of fact, it could be said that, Greg Tolland was effective in crafting an idiosyncratic and elegant visual ambience of the movie and it could be claimed that it was rightly aligned with the temper of the story (Mamer 2013). Martin Scorsese, an American filmmaker celebrated for his punitive, often violent portrayals of American culture, specifically stated in an interview when asked about Citizen Kane, “Welles was not afraid of being self-conscious with the camera and making self-referential remarks with the equipment. (Housemani) This enables the readers with the understanding that the movie gave birth to different camera movements which was yet to see the light of the day.

Now getting into the specifics, camera movements that was implemented in Citizen Kane gives birth to new cinematic space and aid in conveying psychological, spatial and causal interactions within the frame. In simple terms, it could be stated that Citizen Kane significantly crafted the way for crafting the movement of camera as an indispensable staple in Hollywood movies (Laura 2017). To back the claim, specific scenes could be highlighted. The movie Citizen Kane commences with a flat, elegant crane shot that bring the audiences into Kane’s fortress Xanadu. The camera as keeps on traveling towards that direction, the audience witness an entryway of gigantic proportions. Simultaneously, the camera starts moving upwards, which accentuates the incredible domain of Charles Foster Kane. Based on this movement, it could be stated that it characteristically enable the audience to partake in the exploratory world of the protagonist.

Another elegant use of camera movement could be identified in the scene where Kane’s parting from his parents was shown. Tolland skillfully used a long take shot for this portrayal. It was identified that the camera tracks back all the way so that it could comprise the four characters within one singular frame in a shot. It was seen that the little Kane was bordered in the background like an imprisoned soul. This resembles his helpless condition based on the decisions taken by his mother and father, and Thatcher (George Coulouris) in the center stage (Prince 2204). Based on this portrayal, it could be stated that this particular scene is an excellent specimen of the imaginative unification of deep-focus cinematography in relevance to camera movement.

Depending all this shots that has been displayed in the movie, it could be stated that the camera has been used as an instrument for transition. In one of the scene, it was shown that in the breakfast table, an implementation of swiss pan was done. It could be realized that this was primarily done in order to portray that numerous years have passed in the married life of Kane and Emily. The first shot that was taken depicts the closeness of the couple during their initial days of marriage. In the frame, the two characters were positioned away from one another (Carringer 1982). This distance signified the relevant distance which has already developed in their relationship. On a concluding note, it needs to be stated that Greg Tolland showed Hollywood or paved the way for creative potential in relevance to cinematography techniques and style.

Camera Movements in Citizen Kane

Alfred Hitchcock could be easily termed as one of the legends of American and English cinematography. It is extremely difficult to find an individual who is not aware of Hitchcock and most importantly not aware of the contribution and the influence Alfred Hitchcock had on the world filmmaking. It could also be identified that Alfred Hitchcock’s personal invention of several procedures in diverse genres were the primary ingredients behind films remarkable and diverse from what happened on the screens at the point of time. Based on the impact that he had on the American cinematography, Jean Luc Godard opined that, “The death of Hitchcock makes the passage from one era to another… I believe we are entering an era defined by the suspension of the visual” (Godard et al.) Therefore, the amount of influence he had on the cinematic world is quite evident in every possible way.

It gets significantly difficult to get of a proper fundamental impression of the film deprived of conferring the procedures that has already been implemented in the movie, Vertigo. As a matter of various critics of the movie has claimed that through the entire movie, the director has significantly implemented a prodigious range of diverse graphic procedures (Linderman). It has also been specifically mentioned that through this depiction, the primary focus of the audience consideration on the psychosomatic significances of this aspiration for identification or identity.

To be more specific, it needs to be stated that, the cinematographer, has skillfully played with the concept of light. Under certain scenes certain objects appeared lighter and on other scenes those objects were portrayed in darker lighting conditions. For instance, in one of the particular scene, in which Madeleine was being framed in one shot, it was seen that in that exact shot, the restaurant wall on the background becomes brighter. It could be realized that this implementation was done so that the blurred red restaurant walls more visible and helps in underlining the exact moment. In cinematic terms, it could be said that this approach gets implied in order to uplift the small background effect. Also, this subtly improve the emotional high point in relevance to which the specific scene could be lading (Box 2020).

Talking about the lighting and the effects, it gets significantly important to mention that the art of montage was remarkably portrayed in the movie, Vertigo. As a matter of fact, there are multiple scenes in the movie which might prove to be normal and simple for the modern viewers, however, given the time of its production, the shots should not be considered nothing less than magnificent. For instance, the utmost effect from montage was been shown in the movie, when the protagonist shadows his friend’s wife by car. The excellence was created when both the central character and the viewers became jumbled and chaotic, and was not able to understand that the persecuted car was the required one or not.

Lastly, it also gets important to mention that visual effects in relevance to the movie talks about the concept presented in the movie along with the title that the movie tend to portray. The character, Scottie in the movie feels vertigo right when he has to look down from height. This shows that the character has an acrophobia, which is somewhat similar to fear of height. Now, this fear was skillfully depicted in the movie and also the view of the individual who faces this fear has also been taken from the baseline perspective. Therefore, the movie the capability to zoom the camera makes the audience feel vertigo in reality. It gives the consequence that as if the individual who is watching the movie is facing Vertigo himself or herself. This shot gets evident in the first scene of the movie, where it was shown that Scottie’s partner dies and this was his primary trigger point of acrophobia. On a concluding note, it could be stated, based on discussion that for movie perception, lighting and camera movement plays the most significant role. With the implementation of such excellent cinematics techniques, Alfred Hitchcock, showed the viewers the difference between seeing and being seen.

Deep-Focus Cinematography in Citizen Kane

During the year 1966, the Italian maestro Michelangelo Antonioni, was already well-known as one of the most prominent European auteurs of his time. Michelangelo Antonioni was able to grasp a significantly wider audience with his first film in the English language and second film made in color. As a matter of fact, it could be seen that significantly there were end number of reasons behind the movie Blow-Up accomplishing the accomplishment it did in the sixties (Pelizzari 2018). It also gets important to mention that the movie still gets considered as a landmark movie of the period. To begin with, Michelangelo Antonioni was found to claim that, “Once one has learned the two or three basic rules of cinematographic grammar, he can do what he likes-even break these rules.” Based on this statement, it could be realized that in order to change something and try something new and creative, the first crucial step becomes getting significant control over the subject. Understanding the basics becomes extremely important in the process of innovation.

Similarly, the foundations of cinematography or the grammar of cinematography could be identified in the movie, Blow-Up. The very first factor related to the same is crosscutting. It is the technique in which it becomes that the actor must enter from the left if he or she has left the scene from right (Balázs 1970). This are the basics that are taught to the film-making schools in the beginning of the career. Breaking such grammars and rules could have drastic positive impact was only given live example by Michelangelo Antonioni in the movie Blow-Up. The audience only looks at the result, they simply do not care about the procedure. There are several claims by critiques which have stated that Blow-up could be easily identified as the most cinematographically unorthodox of all the films produced by Michelangelo Antonioni (Antonioni). To be more specific, unorthodox approach was shown in montage, as well as photography. The basic of film-making tells that there should not be any cuts during the action. However, this was entirely not followed in the movie Blow-Up. 

One such instance could be easily identified in the movie where it could be seen that the character, Hemmings starts to walk towards the phone booth-snip go a few frames-in a flash, and then he is already there in the final spot. In one of his interview, Michelangelo Antonioni, suggested that he wished to convey to the viewers the same sensations that the photographer experiences when shooting. This approach was taken by Michelangelo Antonioni, long ago even when this was not in practice. For the modern directors it is a standard practice to break the rules and ignore them. Also, it could be seen that, implementation of camera technique was completely different in the movie Blow-Up. In this movie, there was significantly rare use of reverse cutting in most of the dialogue scenes. It could also be seen that, he American method of cinematography showed that one actor was continuously shot, then moving the scene to the other. Therefore, it could be realized that cutting a scene from the middle became evident from this particular movie. It was not in practice till the time Michelangelo Antonioni showed this in his movies.

References

Antonioni, Michelangelo. Michelangelo Antonioni: Interviews. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2008.

Balázs, Béla. "Theory of the Film; Character and Growth of a New Art." (1970).

Box, Harry C. Set lighting technician's handbook: film lighting equipment, practice, and electrical distribution. Routledge, 2020.

Carringer, Robert L. "Orson Welles and Gregg Toland: Their Collaboration on" Citizen Kane"." Critical Inquiry 8, no. 4 (1982): 651-674.

Cotten, John Housemani, Perry Ferguson Van Nest Polgiase, Joseph Cotten, Everett Sloane, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead, Ray Collins, Paul Stewart, George Coulouris, and Ruth Warrick. "MAJOR CREDITS FOR CITIZEN KANE."

Godard, Jean-Luc, and Alain Bergala. Jean-Luc Godard. Cahiers du cinéma, 1998.

Linderman, Deborah. "The Mise-en-Abîme in Hitchcock's" Vertigo"." Cinema Journal 30, no. 4 (1991): 51-74.

Mamer, Bruce. Film production technique: Creating the accomplished image. Cengage Learning, 2013.

Mulvey, Laura. Citizen Kane. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017.

Pelizzari, Maria Antonella. "The Red Desert Effect: What is the enduring resonance of Antonioni’s first color film?." Aperture 231 (2018): 40-47.

Prince, Stephen. "The emergence of filmic artifacts: Cinema and cinematography in the digital era." Film Quarterly 57, no. 3 (2004): 24-33.

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