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Lighting Of Citizen Kane

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Lighting and Darkness of Citizen Kane

Directed by Orson Welles and released in 1941 by RKO, "Citizen Kane", is considered by mane film critics to be one of the greatest examples of film ever made. Many critics believe the acting is one of the major reasons for the film's greatness. Due to Orson Welles background in radio and live theater, others believe the music and sound effects are what truly make this film great. Orson Welles and Greg Toland, the cinematographer, both were considered to be revolutionaries in their time. Always trying to stretch their respective fields and experiment whenever possible, both kept pushing the envelope in order to see just how far they could go. With Welles and Toland now paired together, the possibilities were endless. Citizen Kane's use of deep focus, "permitting all distance planes to remain clearly in focus," (Gianetti, 551) was something new and different for the moviegoers of 1941. Toland and Welles' use of extreme angle shots with the camera express and promote the symbolism that lay beneath the story. While not immediately noticeable, special effects were used extensively throughout the film to add emphasis and add a touch of reality in an otherwise unnatural setting. Whether is be shots of Xanadu itself, or the use of makeup to transform Orson Welles from a young man in his mid twenties to a man in his mid seventies, the special effects of Citizen Kane were unsurpassed for many years. When added together, the final product is magnificent and truly a great film. Welles and Toland deserve much credit for putting together such an extraordinary film that is still as impressive today as in 1941.

Gregg Toland is widely regarded as the most innovative cinematographer of his time. He let all of his skills, daring, and imagination flow freely while filming and lighting Citizen Kane. The lighting is what separates Citizen Kane from the other great films. Toland employs the use of shadows and light to represent a judgment of good and evil. "Welles uses light to represent things and people that are good, and darkness or shadow to represent those that are bad, evil, or who have poor intentions" (Turner). Welles is lighted very differently throughout the film depending upon his character's intentions and general outlook on life. It is interesting to note the use of lights and darks throughout and how the characters and individual scenes are perceived due to the lighting effects.

The lighting of Citizen Kane, in its simplest form, can be broken down into two parts. The first part of the story is dominated by high levels of lighting and crisp images revealing few dark shadows. As a result, "Kane is seen as a self-starter, an idealist, a reformer, a figure of dynamic energy, a traditional type - the hope of the future embodied in a genuine American titan, the entrepreneur tycoon" (Carringer, 84). Bathed in light, Kane is perceived as a man of his word and one who is capable of being trusted to stand by his ideals. Kane - almost angelic in nature - vows to fight for the common man and not bow down to the greedy tycoons with whom he is now in direct competition. The lighting effects help to portray him as the idealist that he is and one fully capable of, and unafraid, to obtain the lofty goals he has set for himself.

In direct contrast with his earlier idealism, the latter part of Citizen Kane is filled with the harsh lighting and deepening shadows, "after he has betrayed his promise and become a petty and ruthless tyrant" (Carringer 84). The lighting seems to suggest his betrayal of the earlier enthusiasm he held for his ideals and morals. Now, later in life, Kane has become the merciless tycoon who will stop at nothing to get what he wants - the one thing he vowed to fight against. . "Above all, we associate such images with Xanadu, where the symbol of hope has become the symbol of defeat" (Carringer 85). Xanadu, in an attempt to win the love of Susan Alexander, is actually nothing more than a massive palace built as a shrine unto himself. While still trying to add on to the great palace, it begins to crumble and decay. Kane, having built himself up into this great man, begins to crumble even as he is trying to build his reputation. Through the use of dark shadows and low lights, Kane and his palace Xanadu are perceived as cold and a glaring symbol of defeat.

Kane is not the only character whom Welles and Toland decide to portray with extreme levels of light. Emily, Kane's first wife, is always portrayed "in the brightest of lights, while Susan, the mistress-turned-wife, starts out mostly in darkness, and evolves into the lights at the end of the movie" (Turner). Emily is thus portrayed as an innocent woman and a woman who will stand by her ideals. The evolution of lighting on Susan is more complicated than that of Emily. The first few times she appears, she is mostly shown to be at least partially in shadow. Later, as she begins to break away from Kane's grasp and exert her independence from his will, this is shows as a gradual move away from the shadows and into the bright lights. In addition to single characters being portrayed through the use of lights and darks, the are a few individual scenes that stand out because of the unique lighting.

In chapter 11, after already having decided he wants to run the Inquirer , Kane wishes to state his declaration of principles and let everyone know what he, and the Inquirer, will stand for. Kane is viewed with full lighting and this suggests he is still moral and willing to stand by those values which he holds so dear. Stepping away from the window, Kane states, "I've got to make the New York Inquirer as important

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