Analysis Project #1: Shot-by-shot breakdown of a scene (Citizen Kane)

Scene

This scene is from Citizen Kane. In this scene, several reporters sit in a viewing room after watching the Kane newsreel and decide that they will try to find out the meaning of “Rosebud.” (1:53 seconds)

SHOT 1 (28 Seconds)   

Framing: Long Shot

Camera Placement: High Angle

Composition: Camera is placed on the right side of the viewing room next to the screen so we see the men from the press looking in our direction. Mr. Ralston moves from the back of the room to go stand on the left side of Mr. Thompson who is sitting on the edge of a desk in the front of the room.

Lighting: Two bright white beams of light shine from the projectors onto the screen, which isn’t in view. Within their path is the desk Thompson is sitting on and the right side of the desk at which Mr. Ralston continually stands. The rest of the room isn’t lit at all, causing high contrast lighting. Mr. Ralston is illuminated briefly by walking into the beam on his way to go stand next to Thompson.

Depth of Field: Shallow

Camera Movement: Mr. Ralston walks from the back of the room into one of the light rays and stops on the left side of Thompson.

Sound: Men talking

Straight cut to next scene.

SHOT 2 (14 Seconds)

Framing: Medium Shot

Camera Placement: High Angle

Composition: Mr. Ralston stands on the left side of Thompson. We have a profile of Mr. Ralston’s right side. We see him from the waist up. Thompson is in the right side of the frame. We view his back and the back of his head. In the background between the two men are other press men who are out of focus. Mr. Ralston walks to the right side of Thompson, briefly speaks then walks out of the frame on the left side.

Lighting: The men in the background are visible but not lit. The left side of Mr. Ralston is lit and Thompson’s right shoulder as well. When Mr. Ralston walks to the right side of Thompson, his back is lit.

Depth of Field: Shallow

Camera Movement: Mr. Ralston walks to the right side of Thompson so there is a pan to the right. We now see Thompson in the left side of the frame and only his head this time. We get a better view of the reporters between the two men.

Sound: Men talking

Straight cut to the next scene.

SHOT 3 (24 Seconds)

Framing: Long Shot

Camera Placement: Low Angle

Composition: We see the backs of two reporters heads. One on the bottom left hand side of the frame, the other on the bottom right hand side of the frame. Thompson sits on the right side of a desk in front of the reporter on the left. Mr. Ralston stands in the background between Thompson and the reporter on the right. For the first time we see the projection screen in the background which is a blank white. Mr. Ralston stands in the background under the screen then walks to the foreground to stand next to Thompson.

Lighting: Strong backlighting. No one is illuminated and everyone is in silhouette. Mr. Ralston becomes illuminated once he stands next to Thompson but his face is still in shadow.

Depth of Field: Deep

Camera Movement: Mr. Ralston walks into the foreground of the frame to stand next to Thompson

Sound: Men talking

Straight cut to next scene.

SHOT 4 (7 Seconds)

Framing: Medium Shot

Camera Placement: Straight on angle

Composition: Thompson sits on the right side of the desk. He is in the left side of the screen. Mr. Ralston stands on the right side of the screen. The blank white projection screen between them is in the background.

Lighting: The back of Thompson’s body is in total darkness. Mr. Ralston’s upper torso is lit, except his face.

Depth of Field: Deep

Camera Movement: Mr. Ralston walks out of frame on the right side.

Sound: Men talking

Straight cut to next scene.

SHOT 5 (7 Seconds) (Essentially the same as SHOT 1)

Framing: Long Shot

Camera Placement: High Angle

Composition: Camera is placed on the right side of the viewing room next to the screen so we see the men from the press looking in our direction. Mr. Ralston stands at the bottom right of the screen in the way of a light beam from the projector.

Lighting: Two bright white beams of light shine from the projectors onto the screen, which isn’t in view. Within their path is the desk Thompson is sitting on and the right side of the desk at which Mr. Ralston continually stands. The rest of the room isn’t lit at all, causing high contrast lighting. Mr. Ralston is put in silhouette by one of the beams he is standing in front of.

Depth of Field: Shallow

Camera Movement: None

Sound: Men talking

Straight cut to next scene.

SHOT 6 (12 Seconds)

Framing: Medium Shot

Camera Placement: Low Angle

Composition: Thompson sits on the left side of the desk

Lighting: Mr. Ralston stands directly in front of one of the light beams from the projector, which causes extreme high contrast lighting. The light seems to explode once it hits him and his animated hand movements cut the burst, creating smaller beams that radiate from behind him.

Depth of Field: Deep

Sound: Men talking

Straight cut to next scene.

SHOT 7 (10 seconds)

Framing: Long Shot

Camera Placement: High Angle

Composition: Camera is placed on the right side of the viewing room next to the screen so we see the men from the press looking in our direction. Mr. Ralston stands at the bottom right of the screen in the way of a light beam from the projector.

Lighting: Two bright white beams of light shine from the projectors onto the screen, which isn’t in view. Within their path is the desk Thompson is sitting on and the right side of the desk at which Mr. Ralston continually stands. The rest of the room isn’t lit at all, causing high contrast lighting. Mr. Ralston is put in silhouette by one of the beams he is standing in front of.

Depth of Field: Shallow

Camera Movement: Mr. Ralston walks to the left hand side of the screen to talk to Thompson.

Sound: Men talking

Straight cut to next scene.

SHOT 8 (10 Seconds)

Framing: Medium Shot

Camera Placement: Straight on angle

Composition: Thompson sits on the right side of the desk. He is in the left side of the screen. Mr. Ralston stands on the right side of the screen. The black white projection screen between them is in the background.

Lighting: The back of Thompson’s body is in total darkness. Mr. Ralston’s upper torso is lit, except his face.

Depth of Field: Deep

Camera Movement: Thompson stands up

Sound: Men talking

Straight cut to next scene.

Breakdown:

Welles masterfully uses lighting and framing to tell the story. He only lights what is necessary. The entire scene is filmed in smokey clouds from cigarettes passing through the light beams, expressing shades of gray and also highlighting the bright of the lights as well as the black of the silhouettes. The fact that we rarely ever see the face of Mr. Ralston isn’t by accident. He is essentially not an important character and the projection room scene is the only scene we see him in. He is a catalyst for Thompson, who also isn’t particularly important in the film. This can be proved because we rarely ever if ever, see Thompson’s face throughout the whole film. We see the back of his head in the right side of the frame and we see the person’s face that he is interviewing on the right side of the frame. This is a pattern we see constantly throughout the film. They are the ones who are important here, not Thompson and Welles wants to stress that. In the projection room scene, none of the other press men are lit and naturally because they do not factor into the story. During the famous scene where Mr. Ralston stands directly in front of a beam of light, he becomes a towering figure, one capable of intimidation, as he demands that Thompson find everyone who ever loved or hated Kane and try to find out what Rosebud is. Light is used expressively here because Ralston radiates authority within those brief 12 seconds and from the low angle shot, we see his towering black silhouette, which expresses power.

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7 Responses to “Analysis Project #1: Shot-by-shot breakdown of a scene (Citizen Kane)”

  1. Tips for shot-by-shot analysis: | History of Cinema II, FALL 2011 Says:

    […] out these posts from your classmates, which do an excellent job tackling this assignment: http://lyoung101.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/2011/10/09/analysis-project-1-shot-by-shot-breakdown-of-a-scene/ and http://rrod93filmstudies.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/2011/10/01/shot-by-shot-analysis/ This entry was […]

  2. Amy Herzog Says:

    Bravo!!!! Observant and insightful– thanks for posting this…

  3. lyoung101 Says:

    Thanks prof.!!

  4. Lorena Russi Says:

    “Radiates authority,” nice one. You made “light” work of that. *obnoxious laugh*
    Seriously though, great insight, Welles is absolutely using light and silhouettes to demonstrate power dynamics and authority. And yea, the pattern of headless figures is seen throughout the movie. Interesting how he plays with textures, in that he uses both transparent and physical elements (ie shadows and the statues) to demonstrate this

    Also since the whole scene is cloudy and dark, I just imagine it almost being like some bizarre scene in a brain and the projectors are the eyes. Not really pertinent, but, you know lol whatevah

  5. alivingston Says:

    This is my favorite scene in Citizen Kane, so i really enjoyed your analysis of it. Its outlined well, and easy to read. I Like how you analyzed the lighting aspect of this scene as Welles is phenomenal at that. Great insight!

  6. lyoung101 Says:

    @Lorena: I wasn’t even aware of that little pun lol All this talking of lighting and whatnot really sinks into your subconscious. I didn’t even think of the shadows/statues aspect, but you’re right about that. I feel as though I heard that idea once, about the projector beams being eyes and the room being a brain. I like that lol Thanks for the kind words.

    @alivingston: Yea I feel as though I’ve seen that shot of someone standing directly in front of the lights so many times after Kane. Thanks for the kind words.

  7. mediarocks89 Says:

    wow great work buddy!!!..=D

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