Film through the lens

Film through the lens header image


October 14th, 2011 · 1 Comment · FOR MEDST 144

Prof. Herzog, I know that you said, ” Please do not select the scene from the opening sequence.” However, please watch the clip and read my analysis because I believe that some parts of my analysis wasn’t spoken about  in class. To be frank,  in my memory, I don’t think anyone spoke my ideas before during class. Please evaluate my analysis fairly. Thanks for your time!

The clip

Scene analysis: from Citizen Kane (dir. Orson Welles, RKO,1941)

8 shots from the beginning part

Shot #1 (00:00~00:04)

  • Cinematography: MLS, normal height, straight on.
  • Tone: high contrast black and white images
  • Sound: non-diegetic music is turned up and suddenly interrupted.
  • Mise-en-scene: the window which is shot from the outside.

The shot begins with when the lens focuses on the lighted window from outside. Before that, viewers have been taken a tour in the garden of Mr. Kane’s vast estate under the bright moon. Therefore, there is a high contrast between the lighted part and its shade. During the whole process of the tour, non-diegetic music is always on with the same volume. However, in this scene, the sound is turned up and suddenly gets interrupted. At that exact moment the lights in the room switched off.


Shot #2 (00:05~00:14)

  • Cinematography: MLS, normal height, straight on.
  • Tone: high contrast black and white images
  • Sound: non-diegetic music starts again
  • Mise-en-scene: the same window, but it is shot from the room inside. Mr. Kane lies on the bed which is set by the window.

Here, the dark window lighted up again is the only action and the music starts again simultaneously. We can see the room inside but it is dark and unapparent, which tells us that the camera shoots the whole process from the reverse side of the window. What’s more, from the bottom of the window, the light is really bright. Meanwhile, on the top of the window, the light is comparatively a little bit darker. It is obvious that the light belongs to the rising sun. The shot represents a new day coming.


Shot #3 (00:15~00:23)

  • Cinematography: long take, goes from LS of the sky of a snowy day to CU of the small house appearing in the snowy day, finally to MCU of the crystal ball in a hand
  • Tone: light and soft
  • Sound: non-diegetic music continues but with a little jingle

This shot is a long take and a Zoom-out process. First, we can see the sky of a snowy day. Then, a small house appears in. Finally, we see a crystal ball in a hand and those we saw before is in the ball. There is no surprising for me to think the scene which Mr. Kane leaves his parents. They are totally the same. What’s more, there are continuous clangs added to the music. This shot are full of happiness atmosphere.


Shot #4 (00:24~00:25)

  • Cinematography: ECU of Kane’s Mouth, quick cuta
  • Sound: Some jingle and Kane says, “Rosebud.”
  • Mise-en-scene: the mouth but we can see that snow falling exists

It is obvious that we can see the snow falling. And the lens focuses the mouth of Mr. Kane. Under this situation, Mr. Kane becomes a boy. He is not the man who is rich and has everything. He is the little boy who is playing with his Skiing board outside of the room right now.


Shot #5 (00:26~00:30)

  • Cinematography: goes from MS and high angel of the hand and the crystal ball to CU of the ball (always tracks along with it) as the ball rolls down the stairs
  • Sound: some jingle, non-diegetic music continues and a loud sound created by percussion instruments
  • Mise-en-scene: stairs

At the first glance, this shot is just a boy rolling down the stairs. However, here, it represents the end of Mr. Kane’s life. It is not end up with the vast estate falling to piece but the crystal get broken. I feel that Mr. Kane doesn’t want his giant house when he is dying. He wants to come back to his own house.


Shot #6 (00:31~00:38)

  • Cinematography: Goes from MS of the nurse opening the door to LS of the nurse coming inside, long take
  • Sound: non-diegetic music continues

In shot#6, these images are the reflection on the any part of the broken crystal ball.


Shot #7 (00:39~00:52)

  • Cinematography: long take, MS,
  • Sound: non-diegetic music continues but with some sound played by trombones
  • Mise-en-scene: One part of Kane who lies on the bed

The shot is the nurse use a white cloth to cover Kane’s body. The music is a little bit sad played by trombones, which shows shock that Mr. Kane passed away.


Shot #8 (00:53~01:02)

  • Cinematography: MLS, normal height, straight on
  • Sound: non-diegetic gradually
  • Mise-en-scene: Same as shot #2

This one is the same as shot #2. The non-diegetic music gradually stopped, which also shows that he is gone.



The scene use a connecting link between what comes before and what goes after. Imagines link up together by portraying the image of the connecting link. Here, the link is the window. Before the light off and the music interrupted, it is a course for viewers to feel the atmosphere of the film life which those outsiders, who want to find who Rosebud is, live in. There is nothing related to Mr. Kane. After the light on and the music plays again, the movie brings us to Mr. Kane’s life, a different story.

The pattern is not obvious but it is definitely repeated in this movie. These links which the filmmakers chose play important roles in characters’ whole lives. They use things to show the change of characters. Filmmakers want us to know that those links are not humble props. They can be given special meanings. It is incredibly unbelievable for a movie to use a way in a piece of writing to show the image. That makes Citizen Kane very unique. We can put hints or hooks in anything in the movie not just show the characters, plots and conflicts.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Amy Herzog

    No worries about picking this scene– it was one that Prof. Ferguson’s class talked about, not us, so you are in the clear… Great work, especially your attention to music and the importance of objects.

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