Carringer, Robert L. "Citizen Kane." Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 9, No. 2, Special Issue: Film IV: Eight Study Guides (Apr., 1975), pp. 32-49
This article explores the technical cinematic innovations that affect the composition of Welles's scenes.
In his essay on Citizen Kane, Robert Carringer describes this history of what many critics consider Orson Welles’s (and perhaps all of history’s) greatest film. Mr. Carringer begins by revealing some biographical information of Welles and the technical innovations that he pioneered in the film (all serving to draw closer attention to the acting). Most notably he comments on Welles’s use of unexpected ultra-low angles, his preference of using single long takes without intercutting, and the extreme depth of field that is used to bring every part of the scenes into focus. Carringer moves on to write about the validity of comparisons that critics have made of the similarity of the character of Kane to notorious personalities of the day, including most notably newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Mr. Carringer also covers Orson Welles’s career transformation from radio to cinema, and he ends the essay describing the plot and character of the film.
This article fantastically reveals some of Welles’s technical cinematic techniques, specifically the use of large depth of field. The director chose to break normal filmmaking conventions in order to achieve certain new dramatic effects. The use of extraordinary depth of field shots was quite unorthodox considering the technology available at the time. The camera aperture has to be very small to achieve this effect and therefore Welles had to use extremely fast film stock as well as special lights and lenses in order to let in as much light as possible. A larger depth of field eliminates the need for editing to break the dramatic space into multiple centers and it also allows for long, drawn out single-take shots. As items from infinity to within a few inches of the lens were all in focus, this enticed Welles to compose his scenes such that the audience’s attention would be drawn to characters entering from far away and off screen. An example is the flashback scene taken from the diary of Kane’s childhood. The shot frames 4 characters: Mary Kane signing away her son, Thatcher busily pushing the papers to her, Jim Kane pacing in the middle ground, and Charles, obliviously playing outdoors in the snow, seen through the window. This unusual effect helped to revolutionize film cinema and is taken for granted by future generations.