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Citizen Kane: A Story of one Man's Inability to Love

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Citizen Kane: A Story of One Man's Inability to Love

Orson Welles' Citizen Kane is a cleverly crafted movie told in a series of flashbacks telling the story of a man who manages to distance himself from everyone he comes into contact with. Throughout the film Welles uses mise-en-scene and cinematography both deliberately subconsciously to point things out and foreshadow things to come to the audience. Specifically the relationship of Susan and Kane can be used as an example. In the scenes involving Susan and Kane many cinematic effects are shown and foreshadowed. Among them are Kane's dominance and control over Susan, and the way Kane exhibits love as power. Specifically, however we can point to the series of events in which Susan and Kane are at Xandu prior to their breakup. Here we have a perfect example of how deliberately yet discreetly we are given the signal of things to come; the slow yet steady decline of their marriage.

The duration and decline of Susan and Kane's relationship is depicted in a series of scenes in a sequence that begins immediately following Susan's suicide attempt with the exterior shot of the massive, ominous, evil looking, fog shadowed Xanadu followed by the interior of the parlor inside Xanadu and then the close up shot of Susan's hand working a jigsaw puzzle. In these simple scenes, the audience is told quickly and concisely that the marriage is failing. The massive Xanadu represents the incompleteness of the relationship between Susan and Kane; it is followed by the luxurious inside, perhaps representing the potential passion or love. The close up of the enormous jigsaw puzzle with Susan's hand putting in the pieces foreshadows the end to come. Kane enters, showing how vast Xandu is and how separate they have become. There is a split second of anticipation following the series of quick shots of Xanadu and the jigsaw puzzle before the dialog begins. Is their relationship as it appears? Sadly, we find out its not. When Susan does speak, the dialog is a stark contrast to the luxuriousness of their surroundings with the massive fireplace and surroundings. Susan asks what time it is, sighing as she does so. Kane tells her it is half past eleven and she asks, "At night?" The anticipation is over. There is no romance or passion here. The tone behind her words displays her boredom even before she gets to her complaint, "The shows have just let out. People are going to nightclubs and restaurants. Of course, we're different. We live in a palace - at the end of the world." Susan has everything but like Xanadu itself, she is missing what she needs to be complete, she is lonely, trapped, and ostracized in her present state. The words were few but against the series of shots, they were emotional. Highlighted throughout is the image of Kane standing over Susan indicating the control and dominance he has over her. As Kane walks away, from Susan to the fireplace we see another example of just how overdone Xanadu is has Kane is dwarfed by the massive fireplace that even appears to have tree limbs burning inside it.

The next shots are of picture puzzle with Susan's hands fitting in a missing pieces followed by a fade into Xanadu's living room years later. The shots of the puzzles represent the years and seasons that have passed and make it clear to the audience that nothing has changed. The close up of the enormous jigsaw puzzle with Susan's hand putting in the last pieces again foreshadows the end to come. When the camera moves back and reveals the jigsaw puzzle spread out on the floor of the Grand Hall, showing that it is done, there is finality to this. This series of camera action is short and symbolic almost to the point of being too much. Another day, another puzzle and the boredom of Susan's life has already been made clear in the snapshot of their married life between the completion of the first puzzle and the subsequent puzzle. The representation of the jigsaw puzzle is an interesting one; showing both the details of Susan's daily life as well as the complexity of the puzzle that is Kane and that is also their own flawed married life. In the puzzle, eventually everything fits and Susan's repetitive puzzle making only emphasizes her inability to make herself fit into Kane's life, into Kane's palace. Kane asks, "How do you know you haven't done them before? Susan glares at him. She does not answer his question but shoots a criticism back at him; "It makes a whole lot more sense than collecting statues." As if his question was a criticism of her. Kane soon changes the subject to having a picnic. Here the camera brilliantly shows their growing separation as its positioning over Susan's shoulder shows how far Kane is away from her and the shadows that surround him.

This scene is structured in a nice parallel to the previous scene of the pair of them talking. Whereas Susan asked the time and let that lead into a complaint about the dullness of her life in Xanadu, this time Kane asked his question and then brings up a suggestion that they go on a picnic. Susan attacks him, "Invite everybody! Order everybody, you mean, and make them sleep in tents!" Tensions have escalated. In the previous scene between the two of them, Susan's complaints were accompanied by sighs. Now she does not waste time on sighs. She goes immediately for attacks. In an interesting motion, she throws down a puzzle piece as she speaks. This rejection of the puzzle foreshadows her rejection of Kane. In this exchange, Kane is unchanged. He does not respond to her bitterness, he merely continues his conversation about the picnic. He turns away from her and the camera shows Susan's angry face.

Next, we are shown the funeral like precision of cars on the picnic. The sequence begins with a medium shot of a joyless and casually dressed Susan and Kane side by side in the rear seat or a car. You can see the rear-projection of daytime through the car's back window. While traveling to the picnic the distant couple continues to argue and, as punctuation on Susan's line "You never give me anything I really care about. Susan's monotone delivery and the sideways glance that she receives from Kane (through tinted glasses) also demonstrate this. Linked by a dissolve, the following frame is a linear shot in deep focus with the bright light of midday casting thick, black shadows directly under the line of cars. The blues-style musical cue begins during the dissolve from Kane and Susan in the car to the first shot of the picnic scene highlighted by a close up shot of the musicians face. This musical motif illustrates Susan's feelings and the frigid distance between herself and Kane. The use of a blues piece in this shot allows

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