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Sound Technique In Citizen Kane Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1715 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The dramatic film Citizen Kane in 1941 is a story of group of reporters that are trying to interpret the last words of Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles), who is the millionaire newspaper business man, “Rosebud” and to examine his lifestyle. The film starts with a news roll detailing Kane’s life, and after that the film shows the audience flashbacks from his life and illustrates to the audience of a man who had everything and anything he wanted to a man who died and had nothing. The newsreel reporter Jerry Thompson (William Alland) starts to investigate the people from Kane’ past such as friends, lovers and colleagues to identify the real meaning of “Rosebud”.

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The first scene in the movie when Kane is dying and holding the crystal glass globe in his hand then he whispered a word that is heard spoken by enormous, mouth that fill the screen “ROSEBUD”. When he said it, no one could hear him because he said it in a low tone; however, only the butler heard it. The sound of Kane saying it and all the noise and silence before he dies illustrates to the audience that the word is something important in the movie and makes them think about the mystery of the movie. After he has pronounced his last dying words, the crystal glass globe rolls from his hand; the ball jumps down two steps (stairs) and smashes into pieces. The audience hears a loud beat when the crystal glass globe shatters into tiny pieces the sound of the shattering globe indicates that the Kane is heartbroken. Through the unclear lens of the globe a nurse is seen entering the room. She lays out the body of Kane’s dead body and the music that has been suspended in a minor key finishes on a main musical tones. (Spurr & Cameron, 2009). Then the scene cuts suddenly to news announcement, full of loud music that makes the audience forget about the previous scene. However, “Rosebud” was repeated in more than one scene that was presented in different type of flutes, bass clarinets, and bassoons to create a sense of darkness, vagueness and mystery to the audience.

Moreover, a scene that started when the camera pans from top to bottom while focuses on the statue. The audience hears Miss Anderson’s voice heard before she appears in the shot. The feature of her voice is ordinary sound qualities of the room. The size of the room is shown to the audience when both Miss Anderson and Mr. Thompson the reporter are in the same frame. This scene shows the audience the importance of the large cold stone pillared library room that matches the cold strict character of Miss Anderson. Also the sound of Miss Anderson’s footsteps, as she walks towards the room to give Mr. Thompson the document he needs about Kane. When Miss Anderson opens the door to the room, the sound of the door that the audience hears which shows them the size of the room and the importance of the room. After the conversation between Mr. Thompson and Miss Anderson, and Miss Anderson leaving the room the audience could hear the closing of the door with music. The sound of the door mixed with music is a transition to the next shot.

A next scene shows the audience when Susan Alexander Kane (Dorothy Comingore), who is the Wife of Charles Kane, sitting in her club after the death of her husband and Thompson comes in to talk with her. Thompson sits down, and then Susan tells him “who told you, you could sit down?” and he replies, “I thought maybe we could have a talk together.” Then she replies, “Well, think again. Why don’t you people leave me alone? I am minding my own business. You mind yours. Get out of here. Get out!” .When she was saying get out she was shouting with a high tone which illustrated to the audience she is mad and upset. Before he comes in the club the audiences hears heavy rain and thunder this also demonstrates to the audience the anger, tension, and sadness.

Also another scene, the audience saw that Kane had grown up from a child into an adult in only two shots. As Charles’s guardian gives him his sled, and Charles wishing him a “Merry Christmas” and unexpectedly the audience sees another shot of his guardian after almost fifteen years later, and the phrase is completed ” and a Happy New Year”. This showed the audience that he has grown up, and it showed only by continuing the soundtrack.

Another scene, when Kane takes his wife Susan to go to a picnic and suddenly slaps her in a tent near the beach. They are both silently angry at each other while a lady near their tent wildly launching with a loud voice at the background. This illustrated to the audience the misery and sadness of both Kane and Susan.

In addition, the director used a numerous number of voices, each saying a sentence or a phrase or sometimes half a sentence and joining the dialogue in an immediate sequence, this action gave the audience an impression that the whole town was talking and also knowing what the whole town was talking about. The director also use the over lapping dialogue which made the scene look more realistic to the audience. Moreover, the director used a technique of putting the sound and audio before of the visual in scene transaction. In other words, when a scene came to a close, the sound and audio would change to the next scene before the image did.

Moreover, the opera rehearsal scene where Kane’s wife Susan sings; for example, when the camera slowly pans up the walls of the opera hall from Susan beginning her singing presentation to two stagehands both were looking shocked and disgusted of Susan’s singing. According to Louis Giannetti in Understanding Movies, music is a greatly abstract art, tending toward pure form. When combined with lyrics, music acquires a more focus content because words have specific references. While words and music both express meanings, each does so in a special manner. With or without lyrics, music can be more specific when put together with film images. (Giannetti, 2010). Moreover, according to Understanding Movies, one of the most continuing and popular film genres is the musical whose major raison is song and dance. Like opera and ballet, the narrative elements of musical are usually pretexts for the production numbers, but some musicals are exceptionally sophisticated dramatically. (Giannetti, 2010)

The films numerous use of mixture allows to create stability between the images and passing of time that would otherwise seem disjointed and disorganized. In a scene that is illustrating Charles’s hectic actions as a newspaperman, suddenly a scene where it shows people dancing and singing with music in the background after that the scene shifts to another scene and time passes. Also, another scene where Kane and his first wife Emily (Ruth Warrick) are having breakfast, the scene here is presented in an elegant way where both are dressed fancily, and exchanging loving words, then the words dies away out after seconds. This scene showed the audience of the timing passing.

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Moreover, in another scene when Emily is disagreeing with Charles over the suitability of hanging an anonymous gift one of his friends has given their son in the nursery. The music in the background demonstrates to the audience that there is something wrong while still maintaining a distressingly joyful attitude, and Kane’s rejection into taking his wife Emily seriously while they are having breakfast.

The Sound Technique that is Connected to Another Technique

Citizen Kane is an excellent example of sounds but it is also connected to different techniques, such as movements and cinematography technique. For example, in Citizen Kane extreme deep focus, diverse camera angles (including low angles that exposed set ceiling) and unusual use of lighting and deep shadows all these techniques were used in the film. Moreover, Citizen Kane had a storytelling technique; changeable narrative forms such as the opening of the film when a newsreel man was talking, and then the interviews and the flashbacks.

Sounds in General

The music of movies in general has a powerful effect on the audience. The music of any movie is to evoke or enhance emotions in the audience. When audiences listen to music a certain emotional feeling the music awakens the memories that the audience faces in the present or past. Moreover, music is able to move through time and leave at two different points at once. Music helps to enhance the effect of a shot to the audiences. Also, music creates tension in a movie. Citizen Kane’s music was considered one of the major things in the movie because the music had an important role when the scene changes from one to another and to develop the emotion and the mood of the film to the audience. The director sometimes used music that would work with the sound effects throughout the film.

According to the book Understanding Movies, sound effects also express internal emotions. When there is silence in a film it makes the audience pay more attention to the scene. Any important silences in a film creates to the audience a sense of something approaching or something that is about to happen. Moreover, like the freeze frame, silence in a sound film can be used to represent death, because usually sounds are linked with the presence of continuing life. (Giannetti, 2010). In addition, according to Louis Giannetti, loud sounds tend be forceful, intense, and threatening. On the other hand, quiet sounds strike the audience as delicate, hesitant, and sometimes weak. (Giannetti, 2010)


In other words, music in films is highly effective to the audience. Music creates tension, brings out emotions, and is definitely one of the most vital aspects of the cinematic experience. Furthermore, it has shown that music is highly complex and artful; it does not only bring the emotional impact on audience by also comprising some of the most dazzling music produced over the year. (Donnelly, 2001). Moreover, sounds help the audience to understand the movie better and also emphases on the vital parts in the movie.


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