Citizen Kane (1941)
- by Orson Welles
We’re told the story of an extremely powerful man, through a series of flashbacks, as journalists are trying to find the meaning of his final word : “Rosebud”.
One very interesting technique used in Citizen Kane is called “deep focus”, nothing on the screen is blurry, this allows having several scenes within one. For instance when we see the parents having a discussion in the foreground while the child is playing in the snow behind the window in the distance. This technique was rendered possible by the introduction of high speed film and new lighting equipment, until then it was necessary to shoot at a large aperture (= short depth of field) to get enough light, especially for indoor scenes. But since those new film were more sensitive, it was possible to shoot at a very small aperture and have everything in focus. This of course introduces a new challenge as of how to convey the sense of distances, to which the cinematographer answered by using architecture. An example is when we see Orson Welles typing on a typewriter in the foreground and we see Joseph Cotten leaning on small barrier in the middel-ground, the barrier which is going away from the camera is giving that sense of distance.
Another engaging aspect of the film is the way those “inner scenes” are framed, often through a window or a door frame (Very compelling article on the subject: Framing Citizen Kane).
"Photographing Citizen Kane was indeed the most exciting professional adventure of my career." - Gregg Toland
Images copyright: Mercury Productions & RKO Radio Pictures