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Citizen Kane: A Treasure Trove of Cinematic Techniques

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Citizen Kane: A Treasure Trove of Cinematic Techniques

Citizen Kane is revered to be one of the greatest films to be made in movie history. The success of the film was strongly influenced by one of the most resounding names in the film industry, Orson Welles. Notably, Welles had directed, acted, co-wrote, and produced Citizen Kane. It is important to note that the movie is not revered for nothing. Film enthusiasts, especially those who want to actively participate in the film industry, consider Citizen Kane as a treasure trove of significant innovations in filmmaking.

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The film has even become a staple study material for those who endeavor in studying film. The primary reason for that is the abundance, and not to mention the exquisite use, of cinematic techniques.

The most notable of the cinematic techniques that Citizen Kane had employed are namely flashback, deep focus, montage, odd camera angles, and fade in/out.

            The plotline of the film could be considered unorthodox.

The plot had much to do with unearthing the media tycoon Charles Forster Kane’s memories. And of course, a familiar cinematic technique would come in handy when dealing with memories. This particular cinematic technique is referred to as “flashback”. In simple terms, flashbacks are segments of a film that enables the audience to travel back in time, that is, within the narrative. In some sense, flashback is the movie world’s version of time travel to the past. This particular cinematic technique proved to be very useful in Citizen Kane wherein the bulk of the narrative could be found on the protagonist’s past. As observable in the film, the story complicates as more flashbacks are introduced. The plot had started with the death of the protagonist Charles Kane. Intriguingly, his last word was “Rosebud.” In effect, the mention of “Rosebud” grabs the curiosity of the audience. And then, a series of flashbacks would follow. Notably, the audience would become willing to pay attention to the flashbacks while they anticipate clues about “Rosebud.” Arguably, one of the best flashbacks of the movie was during the childhood of Charles Kane, particularly on the details such as the snow sled.

            In terms of innovation in cinematic techniques, Citizen Kane is well known for the brilliant use of “deep focus.” This cinematic technique could be considered a complicated tool in filmmaking, but nevertheless very useful. To put it simply, deep focus enables the audience to view every detail of a shot as clear as possible. In other words, what is in front and what is in the background are still recognizable in the perspective of the viewer. It would be arguable if this particular technique is either efficient or not. Because when the scene is shot in deep focus, every detail is clear. As for the part of the audience, that simply means that they can choose what detail they would want to focus on. What is admirable in Citizen Kane is that the use of deep focus had functioned fluidly. It is noticeable that the use of close-ups is minimal in Citizen Kane. Simply because there was no great need for close-ups. Deep focus had enabled the film to tell a story in a very dynamic manner. One of the best scenes of the movie showcased the efficacy of deep focus. This particular scene is a flashback when Thatcher tells the Kanes that he would adopt the young Charles Kane. The audience could just appreciate the facial expressions of the characters. In the background, the young Charles Kane is playing in the snow, as visible through the window.

            Another cinematic technique is what introduced the audience to the narrative. This cinematic technique is referred to as “montage”. A montage, as the word suggests, is a series of shots that is shown to make a brief and concise point.  After the death scene of Charles Kane, the audience is informed of the significance of the death of the protagonist. This is strongly suggested as many newspapers had headlined Kane’s death. Moreover, the use of montage in this film is visually stimulating. The admirable editing of Citizen Kane made it possible for the montage to be seamless and therefore effective.

                And since Citizen Kane is often referenced as one of the most innovative films of all time, the cinematic technique of odd camera angles is also utilized by the film. It was like the camera itself is coping with the intensity of the acting, as if the camera is an actor itself. An example of a scene wherein there is an odd camera angle is when Kane was reflecting on his loss as Leland is reprimanding him. During this scene, the camera angle was shooting upwards.

            Again, the editing aspect of the film is truly remarkable. Particularly in transitions such as fade in and fade out. The seamless editing permitted the audience to traverse smoothly on the narrative of the “bumpy” life of Charles Kane.

            It is difficult to pick the best scene in Citizen Kane simply because the whole movie is a collection of beautiful scenes. But if under duress to do so, I would choose to pick the breakfast scenes as the best. The beautiful shots are just secondary reasons why I have chosen this scene. The primary reason is in the scene’s profoundness. During the flashback to Kane’s first marriage, the audience is shown how as wealthy man could be unhappy. This unhappiness was obviously brought by his dysfunctional marriage. As the movie gains momentum, the audience would notice that the table is getting larger and larger. And Kane is left in a large table with no one to interact with.

            But of course, these are some of the remarkable features of Citizen Kane. However, the important fact is that the cinematic techniques are just as remarkable as the other aspects such as acting and musical scoring. Citizen Kane is definitely a movie to watch especially by those who wish to make their own movie. That does not mean that they should mimic Citizen Kane, but they filmmakers should emulate the integrity and innovativeness of arguably the greatest movie ever.


Welles, Orson. 1941. Citizen Kane. USA: Mercury Productions.


Cite this Citizen Kane: A Treasure Trove of Cinematic Techniques

Citizen Kane: A Treasure Trove of Cinematic Techniques. (2016, Aug 11). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/citizen-kane-a-treasure-trove-of-cinematic-techniques/

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