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Citizen Kane - textual analysis of the 'picnic scene'

Uploaded by Squonk!! on Aug 29, 2001

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Directed, produced and starring Orson Welles, Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941), is famous for it’s many ‘remarkable scenes, cinematic and narrative technique and experimental innovations’ (Dirks, 1996). Written by Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz and filmed by Gregg Toland Kane is ‘classed as a fresh and classic masterpiece’ (Dirks, 1996). Kane is a brilliantly crafted series of flash backs and remembrances centering around the investigations of a ‘dynamic man in a dynamic world’ (Quicksilver, 2001). Kane draws much of its power from its violation of classic codes and conventions. In his debut masterpiece, Welles uses film as an art form to energetically communicate and display this narrative through imaginative and powerful cinematography, setting, sound, lighting, editing, music and performance. The focus of this essay is the picnic sequence that appears late in Susan Alexander’s recount to Thompson. Consisting of 23 shots and lasting for 2 minutes and 10 seconds, this scene signposts the end of the relationship between Susan and Kane.

In the previous scene, beside the enormous Xanadu fireplace, Susan is reduced to completing scores of jigsaw puzzles, depicting various outdoor scenes, as an escape from the cold and sterile situation that has estranged husband and wife. However, the couple are denied even the spontaneity and ease of the outdoors after Kane’s decision on a picnic (Jaffe, 1979, p. 353). The sequence begins with a medium shot of a joyless and casually dressed Susan and Kane side by side in the rear seat of a Dusenberg. Kane wears a hat and sunglasses representing the day that is visible through the rear window alongside another vehicle. The 15-second blues-style musical cue begins during the fade from Kane at Xanadu to the first shot of this scene with muted trumpets playing in a dark and foreboding manner. This musical motif illustrates Susan’s feelings and the frigid distance between herself and Kane. Whilst travelling to the picnic the distant couple continue to argue and, as punctuation on Susan’s line “You never give me anything I really care about”, trombones join the trumpets and distort the motif, ‘highlighting Kane’s irrevocable authoritarianism and the uselessness of Susan’s efforts’ (Thomas, 1992, p. 189). Susan’s monotone delivery and the sideways glance that she receives from Kane (through tinted glasses) also demonstrate this.

Linked by a dissolve, the following frame is a linear shot in deep focus with the...

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Uploaded by:   Squonk!!

Date:   08/29/2001

Category:   Film

Length:   9 pages (2,090 words)

Views:   2396

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