Citizen Kane: A Deep-Focus Film

        One of Orson Welles’s most famed contributions to his 1940 Citizen Kane is the deep focus. Welles wanted to make a new kind of movie, using a new kind of cinematography. His camera work is famous in all of his films; but, in Citizen Kane the background, foreground, and just about everything else are all in sharp focus. The most memorable scene using this technique is shown when Kane breaks into the hotel room when Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore) tried to kill herself. In this scene the medicine in the front of the shot is as much in focus as Kane and the doctors are in the background rushing into the room. According to, “The shot was an in-camera matte shot. The foreground was shot first, with the background dark. Then the background was lit, the foreground darkened, the film rewound, and the scene re-shot with the background action.” This is a lot of work to get the desired effect. However, it was worth it because this film would later be known for shots like these and for its attempts at making cinema new.

        This film is also known for its low angle shots as well as the deep focus. The low angle shots look up at the characters in the scene, making them appear larger and more dominant. This was new to cinema because the sound stages and studio systems did not have ceilings. These low angle shots made it so that the ceilings were a part of the background of the shot. Thus, a ceiling had to be made in order for these shots to work. For the scene where Kane meets Leland (Joseph Cotton) after his election loss, a trench in the floor was dug in order to get the low angle shot desired for this famous scene. The cinematographer Gregg Toland had approached Welles for this project because of Welles’s reputation for experimentation. Obviously the pairing worked out for the best.

Work Cited

Lauren Bauer

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