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Citizen Kane: Mise-en-Scene and Aspects

According to the French translation, the arrangement of stage and scenery characteristics or components in a drama is known as mise-en-scene. Although the word mise-en-scene may be translated to “stage setup,” in cinema analysis, it focuses on everything that occurs or is performed in front of the camera, including the actors and props (Sikov, 2020). Lighting, the performance of the film actors, and the design of the set are examples of actions that may be performed. Therefore, mise-en-scene in film analysis is the integrated impression of how every component comes together for the viewers.

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The following components must be present for a film or production to be classified as mise-en-scene: décor, setting, and lighting; depth of space; costume and makeup; to mention a few. In Citizen Kane, the introduction of light into the scene serves as a prelude to the film that would follow over the following two decades. The cinematograph and lighting work together in this image. This enables spectators to see the foreground, middle ground, and backdrop all in one frame, while everything is in clear and crisp focus in the forefront and background. When using this method, the cinematographer must mix lighting with composition and angle to create the impression of curiosity (Sikov, 2020). Therefore, through this method, effectively managing the mise-en-scene keeps the viewer’s attention throughout the whole frame without leaving them puzzled.

In Citizen Kane, during the scene in which Susan is performing her opera, Orson Welles emphasized the usage of costume and the use of makeup and hair that she was wearing throughout her performance. Another scene that may be read as mise-en-scene is Kane as a kid, playing in the snow, with the whole environment white and empty except for Kane and the snowman. The emphasis is on the snowman and Kane, implying that he was mostly alone even as a kid. As Kane’s mother enters the picture, one can discover through looking at him through an open window, and as the camera pans back, one gets additional glimpses of Kane’s life settings, including his childhood house.

Key Scene

The newlywed Kanes seem to be content with their marriage in the first scene. Both are having breakfast at the same time at a small table. The lighting is brilliant because of the window behind them, the music is upbeat and beautiful, and Charles and Emily are first framed in a two-shot sequence. At initially, their discussion is focused on them, but it soon shifts to Emily’s worry over Charles’ time at the Inquirer. Emily and Charlie are not framed together in a picture until the very end of the montage after this topic change. Shot/reverse-shot is used throughout the remainder of their breakfast discussions, with just one figure in the frame at a time. This serves to highlight the widening gap between the two.

Camera Movement

The film incorporates a lot of camera movement throughout the scenes. Citizen Kane’s camera movements assist in communicating causal, geographical, and psychological connections inside the frame by opening up cinematic space. Citizen Kane opened the path for camera movement to become a standard in Hollywood movies. It opens with a beautiful crane shot that sends viewers to Kane’s stronghold Xanadu. As the camera moves around the room, people see a huge gateway that is proportioned. The camera’s upward movement highlights Charles Foster Kane’s amazing realm. It enables one to engage in the protagonist’s exciting world metaphorically.


Sikov, E. (2020). Three mise-en-scene: Cinematography. In Film Studies, second edition (pp. 38-54). Columbia University Press.

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