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Cinematography is defined as the choices made about lighting and filming by camera when taking images or pictures that are to be used in the production of a cinema. Cinematography is particularly applicable to motion pictures. Cinematography became popular in the early nineteenth century, although it was not as advanced as the modern digital cinematography. In fact in earlier times the cinematographer was both the director and the person who handled the camera. Today things have changed as cinematography has advanced and it needs a specialist, so in the production of motion pictures we have both the cinematographer and the director.  Cinematography involves the following aspects; film stock, lens, depth of field and focus, lighting and lastly camera movement. This essay will identify a film and critically discuss the use of cinematography in that film.


The film that will be discussed is the Citizen Kane. Citizen Kane was produced in 1941. It starred and was directed by Orson Welles. The film is considered as a success especially due to its inventive cinematography and music used in the film. The film is about Charles Foster Kane, who dies alone in his huge mansion and his last uttered words were rosebud. Thompson a journalist embarks on finding out about Kane's life and what the words rose bud meant. He interviews all the people that Kane had been involved with to find out about his life. The film is narrated using flashbacks about the life that Charles Kane had lived and how he had attained and lost everything in his life.  The journalist finally figures out that rosebud referred to a sled where Kane had been most happy.

            The film has been well directed and produced as per the times that it debuted. I personally enjoyed the film especially the character of Charles Foster Kane and the way he presented himself in the film. The other characters have also done well but not as the main character. The pictures were well in focus and it showed the exemplary work that was done by the cinematographer. The film has an excellent story that has a moral of how a man wants earthly riches and risks his soul and happiness and he dies with no one on his side and having experienced very little happiness except while he was poor and a child. It is a film that I would watch repeatedly, even though it is increasingly becoming old.

The visuals used in the film are very innovative and some of them had never been used before this particular film. The cinematographer Gregg Toland has immensely used deep focus in the images of this film. This makes the pictures to be visible from both a background and foreground view. These visuals have greatly enhanced the telling of the story and they enable the viewer to understand and feel the story. One such caption is how they are able to capture the magnitude of the estate, especially the part where Susan- Kane's mistress is leaving the estate.

The shot of fences of the great estate, when the movie is starting are well brought about by contrast (Ogle & Bill, 1985). The movie focuses the main gate with the big k on the foreground while at the background it displays the great Xanadu castle as a contrast and in a faded shade. Welles uses fading in of images and planes to change from one scene to another by dissolving the images and focusing on the present image.

The film also uses deep focus to bring in all planes in the film. The three planes are the foreground, the centre and the background. This is well displayed in the caption where Kane's mother is signing the documents (Ogle & Bill, 1985). The mother, the father at the door, and Kane who is outside the window is all visible to the viewer. Usually in those times, only the foreground would have been visible, and in this case only the mother would have been seen but due to the use of deep focus the picture is different. Toland, the cinematographer, uses in -camera effects to clearly produce deep focus in this particular caption by first shooting the foreground while the back is dark and vice versa, then rolling the film with background activity.

The film also has greatly used lighting, in several captions backlight is let into a room through two openings. This renders some characters to appear only as a silhouette and their identity is not revealed to the viewer. The fill also uses shadowing; this is shown where Kane is talking to Susan and a shadow of Mr. Kane rests on the face of Susan (Ogle & Bill, 1985). The film has also used different angles to capture images in the film; this is mostly used in bringing in the aspect of rosebud and the mystery of the place. The film also used low angle shots, so that some scenes appeared with the ceiling in the background. This was not common with lots of films as the ceiling in the set is usually filled with other equipments


Cinematography has an enormous contribution to films especially in the earlier days when films did not have adequate sound so the film entirely relied on the picture. Citizen Kane is one of the earlier films that are not digital that exemplary used cinematography to clearly narrate its story. It used deep focus, fading, lighting and different use of angles to bring out the picture clearly. This made the film to become popular and has since been rated as one of the best ever made films, even coming before the Casablanca.

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