Historical Analysis Citizen Kane

Eric Blodgett, Film 220, Professor Keating
UC Santa Barbara, 2006

Historical Analysis, Citizen Kane:
Camera Movement
Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Welles, was an exemplary and ground-breaking work. In narrative structure and film style, Welles challenged classical Hollywood conventions and opened a path for experimentation in the later 1940s. Gregg Toland’s deep-focus cinematography and Welles’ use of low-key lighting are often discussed aspects of the movie. True, these were areas of innovation, but when watching the movie in class I was particularly struck by the use of camera movement, or “mobile framing” as described in Film Art. In this historical analysis, I will take a detailed look at how Welles and Toland use camera movement to develop and challenge the Hollywood style. By referring to other movies viewed in Professor Keating’s class, including The Cheat, Wings, Applause, Double Indemnity, The Last Laugh and Bicycle Thief, this paper traces one aspect of innovation and diffusion in the movie many call the greatest film ever, Citizen Kane.
The idea of moving the camera as a spectacular embellishment probably began in the Lumiere Films like Leaving A Station by Rail in which the cameraman set up his equipment on the train rather than by the side of the tracks. Audiences were amazed by the feeling of motion that this provided (a technique that returned in early CinemaScope films like Viva Las Vegas). But with the rise of the feature, camera movement took on storytelling functions. In a film like DeMille’s The Cheat, the camera remains static until it needs to reveal something important to the plot, like when it tracks past the jurors in the courtroom scene. This is not spectacular but informational. By the end of the 1920s, under the influence of German Expressionism, ornate camera movement had returned, but mainly to show off settings as part of establishing shots (Lecture, April 2). Murnau, in The Last Laugh uses camera movement subjectively...