Film Analysis

There is a scene in Citizen Kane (Welles, Mercury Theatre, 1941) where Kane and his first wife Emily are shown talking with each other at the breakfast table on various days and each day they grow further apart physically and emotionally.  This scene was just one to way to show how Kane throughout the whole film distances himself from others gradually which is why at the end he was alone in his death bed thinking about his old sled.  Also, during this time when the film was being made, the World War II draft was going on which had many husbands leaving their families so to show this scene was another way of showing a husband “leaving” his family without even having to go to war.  The way this scene is shot helps show this more clearly.

In the first shot of the scene, we are introduced to Kane and Emily by a forward tracking shot to the happily chatting couple. The non-diegetic music sounds pleasant which indicates a sense of security in the couple’s happiness.  What is seen in the shot is important too. Their closeness is shown by the way they interact with each other and how physically close they are to each other. He stops for a second to kiss her on the forehead while he is walking to his chair which is close to hers on her right side.  Once he is seated at the small intimate barely cluttered table, they continue having a light conversation talking non-stop until they gaze into each other’s eyes.  They also look relaxed. Emily is wearing a low scoop neck white dress and is slouched forward in her seat and though Kane is wearing a tux he is also slouched forward. I would call this whole first shot the “before” of “before & after”.

After Kane finishes the conversation with a smile, there is a very quick fade-out to fade-in while the camera very quickly pans to right to show Emily indicating that we are watching something slightly in the future in the same place. This time things are not as pleasant between the couple.  The music has changed its tone somewhat to something not as light as before.  Emily and Kane are sitting at each end of the now mostly covered with flowers table instead of closely together.  Emily’s clothes cover her up much more and are slightly darker. She sits more rigidly also.  Kane on the other hand, is the opposite from her. His clothing is much looser and he hasn’t shaved his mustache nor bothered fixing his hair and now smokes. He is shown leaning back in his chair distancing himself from Emily even more than they already are.  Their conversation has turned a little more serious because she is getting more concerned about Kane working all the time and asks more questions whereas before it wasn’t that serious.

Again after Kane finishes that conversation in a light-hearted tone, the camera quickly pans to Emily at a later date.  The music is faster or spiraling which means that their relationship is heading down the wrong path.  Emily’s clothing has gotten more conservative and darker and her posture is completely straight now. Kane has let himself go a little more with wearing a simple robe.  His posture is that his whole right side is facing away from the table which makes him seem a bit more distant.  Their conversation has gone in a political direction with Emily complaining about the articles Kane writes about her uncle.  But still, Kane ends things on a light-hearted note.

This next future shows more dramatically how things changed.  Though the flowers are gone from the table, they are not any closer to each other.  Emily has stayed the same with her dark colors and posture but Kane seems to follows the trend.  He is not in comfortable clothes anymore but in a dark suit sitting as straight as his wife.  This change in him shows a more serious Kane.  His seriousness is obvious by his darker tone of voice and at the end of the conversation when things are not ended in a happy-tone.

In the next future, Kane and Emily are shown arguing and Kane has become more unlike his earlier self.  Maybe this is because of him getting older or because his work is becoming more stressful each day.  His annoyance is shown at the end of the conversation by that look on his face and his slightly slamming down of the teacup.

The loving relationship is over by the last shot of that scene.  The music has slowed down significantly and has gone somber.  Emily is shown reading the newspaper trying to ignore Kane.  Then Kane is shown reading his newspaper trying to ignore Emily.  No words are exchange between the two just small “glares”. After the camera cuts to Kane it back tracks slowly as if creeping away from a murder scene then stops to show both Emily and Kane in the same frame which hasn’t been done since they were first shown in the beginning of the scene. I call this the “after” of “before & after”.

To get from the “before” to the “after”, I saw many patterns.  The first one being how every conversation started with Emily and ended with Kane.  Maybe there is no real significance to that but I saw it as a power struggle; that Kane always had to have the last word and the last word always went against Emily’s point.  Next were the behavioral patterns that Emily and Kane grew with the course of time. Compared to the first and last shot of the scene Kane and Emily went from relaxed and light-hearted to stressed and serious and their clothing and postures went along with their changing personalities. The way they spoke to each other changed too because they used to be so chatty but as the conversations changed to darker subjects they spoke less to each other. The change of pace of each shot caught my attention also.  The first shot of the couple when they were happy lasted almost one minute. The second to last shot when they could barely stand each other lasted only 10 seconds.  But the most obvious change was their physical distance to each other.  At first they sat close together at a small table, by the end they sat at each end of what is seems a longer table.

Kane and the drafted husbands of World War II were similar.  When the husbands came home from war, their personalities have changed significantly.  Those soldiers probably had fine relationships with their wives until they have seen the horrors that could change anyone.  And so Kane probably has been through a lot in his life that changed the way he acted at home.  Emily probably feels like she was losing her husband just like many other women felt when the war was over.

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Posted by cjenkins   @   21 October 2010

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