PHILOSOPHY OF FILM 8
CitizenKane: Film Analysis: Question 1
Deepfocus is one of the cinematographic elements that are usedextensively in the film CitizenKane.This film technique involves having everything in the camera fittedwithin the frame. As a result, instead of the camera just focusing onthe foreground alone, it also focuses on foreground too. Therefore,images in the foreground, middle ground and the foreground are allcaptured by the camera and fitted onto one frame. This technique inthe film CitizenKane iscombined with other cinematographic elements such as lighting toproduce vivid shots as Sinnerbrink explores (Sinnerbrink, 2011).
Whendeep focus is combined with mise-en-scene, the mood of the film comesout. In this film, deep focus is used effectively in the scene whereKane loses control due to his personal isolation and this affords theviewer a clear view of the space that Kane is able to command as wellas the space that he has totally no control over. Deep focus is alsoemployed effectively in the Xanadu shot whereby the monkey cageframes the shot in the foreground. In the middle ground is the entrygate with further back being the misted depths of the castle grounds.Deep in the background of the frame of the camera is the castle andits wide windows.
Thefollowing deep focus shot has in the foreground Kane’s body sittingat the typewriter and Leland in the middle-ground with a dark andvoid emotional gulf between the two. This detailed shot on Kanefocuses on his material possessions is laden with meaning. Throughthe use of the cinematographic element of deep focus on the vastestate of Kane, an important motif in painted, one based onmaterialistic possessions.
Atthis juncture in his life, Kane’s material possessions havereplaced people in his life, including himself. In these introductorydeep focus shots, Kane is not explicitly depicted as a person. Thefocus is on his possessions. Even the vast estate is depicted as aghastly nightmare of items long forgotten. This introductory scenebased on the end of Kane’s life is characterized by the most vividexpressionism in the whole film and the film is able to immediatelygrasp the attention of the audience thanks to the cinematographictechnique of deep focus.
Moreover,this film also introduces another important cinematographic techniqueknown as “wipe”. In this technique as depicted in CitizenKane, oneimage in the screen is wiped off by another. The scene on thepresentation of Kane’s possessions is characterized by multipleshots, especially those in Xanadu all being wiped out by anothershot. The shots here center on building structures, monuments, estategrounds, revolving doors and businesses all belonging to Kane.
Theseshots wiping off each other not only depict Kane’s vast amount ofwealth, but also depicts the multiplicity of Kane. For example, he ispresented as a Fascist, a Communist and also a true American. At onetime he is seen supporting some wars and discouraging others while onother shots he is being hated by Americans and in others being loved.When these the quick shots are wiping off each other, an importantglimpse into the life of this complex character is revealed. Verymany shots have been put together, covering a big chunk of the lifeof the protagonist and are seen to quickly flash in the eyes of theviewer.
Othercinematographic elements employed in the film include film stock andangle shots. With a good background setting, the cinematographer isable to bring a past event into the present and make it look realusing film stock. In this film, different film stocks from earlierperiods have been used in order to give the viewer an impression of areal newsroom is the scene on “News on the March.” Using a widerange of shots, the cinematographer for example, in the inquireroffices uses low angle shots that effectively combine with the use ofan actual ceiling as well as the crane shot leading the viewer intoEl-Rancho.
TheConformist: Question 3
Inthis film, several cinematographic elements stand out: lighting andshadows, color and mise-en-scene. The cinematographer in this filmeffectively uses light and shadow to highlight scenes of romance inthe film. First among this, is the scene on Marcello with his fiancéewhere the shades and stripes are filtered by the curtains and abeautiful romantic scene emerges on the bodies of the characters.Romance and sexuality play a pivotal place in the whole film that thediscussion will focus later on.
VittorioStoraro explained the use of sharp contrast depicted by the shadowsand light as a means of “forming a cage” on the protagonistMarcello. The director is able to visualize the conflict within theprotagonist as a caged person. In the scene where Marcello is inParis, the lights are seen to be embracing the shadows and then thecolor starts to appear on his image as the film depicts that thepsychology of Marcello is changing just like the shadows and thelights around him.
Thiscave feeling is further explored by the scene when Marcello visitshis former teacher coincidentally talking about the theory of Platoon the cave. The motif of the light and shadows is clear from thebeginning: they symbolize the un-conscience and conscience ofMarcello the protagonist he has something to reveal about himselfwhile consequently hiding something else inside him. In a nutshell,the lighting by Storaro is stylish, masterful and symbolic throughoutthe entire film.
Oneof these scenes is whereby Marcello goes to meet secretly withanother man and as they stand near a light bulb. The bulb keeps onswinging back and forth as the two men talk and their shadows keep onshifting. This results in a scene whereby the lights and the darkshadows keep on shifting, depicting the inner turmoil that theprotagonist is going through deep inside as he hides his sexuality inpublic by living as a straight male while deep inside he is gay.Regarding color, the cinematographer uses three kinds of color,yellow, blue and white.
Theflashback sections of the scenes are shot in nostalgic and warm goldand yellow color while the present day is shot in icy blue andgrey-comfortless colors (Sinnerbrink,2011).It’s almost to say that that Marcello as a child had a happy andwarm heart, but his present life is almost as tasteless as those greyand blue backgrounds. Mise-en-scene in TheConformist isjust as important as light, color and lighting.
Thereis a quick camera movement that suddenly injects urgency into thefilm. There is the scene whereby people are forming queues of circlesas they walk out of the restaurant and the camera turns almost 180degrees to quickly focus on those inside the restaurant as it deeplyfocuses on people outside the window then suddenly again stops tofocus on the man that the protagonist is about to meet. The camerathen deeply focuses on the two and the queue of the people in thebackground as they are about to return to the restaurant. As theysilently enter and form a circle around Marcello, the audience getsthe sudden feeling that time is up for Marcello and he is about to betrapped.
Ata time when being gay was something that was socially not acceptable,this film effectively captures the inner turmoil that the sexualityof an individual has on an individual. The movement of the images andobjects to and from the background, combined with the quick movementof the camera lens illuminates the scene and give a sense of urgencyin the scene while at the same time being very fluent.
How Has Changed My Way of Viewing Films: Question 7
Thiscourse has been important to me because now I am able to connect thecinematographic elements of the film with motifs and meanings in afilm. This understanding especially has to do with lighting andcolor. The lighting in the film TheConformist hasespecially guided me towards understanding the importance of lightingand color in films. For example, I am now able to connect betweenwarm and icy cold colors with the mood of a specific scene and holdthat mood even when scenes change. From what I have gathered fromthis course, light and color are essential to the whole theme thatthe film is exploring. Grey and blue colors depict a different moodof iciness and tone different from that of color and yellow that iswarm.
Forexample, I have observed that icy grey and blue colors are often acharacteristic of some chilly scenes with danger lurking around oreven death. The same goes with lighting. In TheConformist, theshadows are a characteristic of many scenes almost everywhere thatMarcello goes and even without being told, it’s like one of thecharacters is hiding something when such lighting is employed. Soon,the viewer gets to understand that Marcello is gay, but he cannotcome out because the society cannot understand his sexualorientation. Without the chance of the society conforming, Marcellois forced to conform to the society.
Ihave also been able to understand the intricate connection betweencamera movement and the storyline in the film. For example, duringthe beginning of the film when the director is weaving the storytogether, the movement of the camera is relatively slow but duringthe climax, the shots in the scenes are fast and the movement of thecamera is fast too, and hence, I can grasp the plot quite fastirrespective of whether I was there when the film started or not.
Sinnerbrink,R. (2011). Newphilosophies of film: Thinking images.London: Continuum International Pub. Group.