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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 bright light of midday casting thick, black shadows directly under the line of cars. A new variant of muted trumpets makes the rigid, lugubrious and seemingly infinite stream of cars on the beach look much like a funeral procession in their black, uniform order. The use of a blues piece in this shot allows a seemingly continuous flow of music absent of any abrupt change in tone or style when followed by the mournful rendition of This can’t be love’.
A dissolve from the shot of the cars to a close up of the face of the singer in the third shot draws attention to the lyrics “this can’t be love, because there is no true love”. They serve as some kind of existential comment on not only the relationship between Susan and Kane but also Kane’s life.
Using deep-focus cinematography, the mise-en-scene becomes vital in directing the attention of the audience; In this style it is not the lens that makes the arrangements for our eye, it is our mind that is compelled to follow the dramatic spectrum in it’s entirety’ (Bazin, 1996, p. 233). The appearance of a formally dresses Raymond, the butler from Xanadu, commands our attention, his black suit standing out amongst the other casually dressed guests. The way that the camera seemingly follows him as it pans left in deep focus of the festivities makes the viewer aware of the space. Also, we expect that, as in the past, Raymond will lead us to Kane. Our uneasy couple is unable to leave Xanadu behind and so it travels with them in the form of staff and finery.
Balancing this shot are the luminous tents, delicately woven into the everglades. Looking much like an island surrounded by water, the brightest .