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Explore how time and place are used in Welles’ Citizen Kane to shape the audiences understanding of the nature of ego. In your response make a detailed reference to the film Citizen Kane is Orson Welles dramatic portrayal of the devastating effects of one mans obsessive egotistical drive for notoriety which steadily isolates him over time. Through the use of time and place, the film shows the changes and effects of Kane’s ego throughout his life. From his childhood, to the height of his ego and later to its decline and the negative affects these had on Kane. The separation from his mother during childhood tremendously impacted on Kane’s ego. During his childhood, Kane was taken by Thatcher, which resulted in him being separated from his mother. Deep focus is used in the shot where Kane is playing happily outside whilst the adults discuss his future. This techniques awards power to the audience as they choose where they look, however the placement of Kane’s mother in the foreground indicates her importance and her actions to send her son away.
This scene highlights Mrs Kane’s role in sending her son away as it left him feeling unloved and abandoned, motivating him to prove his worth and importance to everyone in the future. Kane’s separation from his mother, led to him being raised by Thatcher who saw Kane for his business potential and not in a loving way, also impacting on Kane as he isn’t fond of Thatcher as reflected in his actions, when he sends a letter to him that “I think it would be fun to run a newspaper”. This casual remark marks the start of Kane’s growing ego, as he is confident that he has enough money, and doesn’t need to take his career too seriously. This turning point in his ego was due to his need to annoy Thatcher due to his dislike of him from taking him away from his mother. This demonstrates that the events of Kane’s disrupted childhood played an important role in Kane’s obsessive egotistical drive.
During the height of his career, Kane’s ego is a dominant force in his newspaper business as well as his political career. As the inquirer grows, so does Kane’s confidence and egotism. This is evident when Kane manages to poach the entire reporting staff from his opponents stating “I felt like a kid in front of a candy store… six years later I got my candy, all of it”. This simile shows Kane comparing his workers to candy highlights Kane’s arrogance in viewing his employers as demeaning ‘things’ rather than equals. (proving that he always gets what he wants as a result of his power and money). This line also acts a time transition, taking the audience 6 years since the enquirer began, showing its growing success as well Kane’s growing ego. Kane continuous to expand his notoriety as he craves love by the people, and does this by becoming involved in politics.
Kane’s political rally scene, which opens with an enormous picture of Kane, as the camera pans down onto Kane and the audience. These techniques depict his power and prominence within society, as Kane completely dominates his surroundings. Kane is at the top of his game, which has resulted in large ego boost, as well using his political career to further drive his need for notoriety. The negative effects of Kane’s obsessive ego results in him growing lonely and antisocial during his final years. One negative effect was his acquisitions, as evidence of power. Kane constantly buying luxury goods, as a result of his ego in order to boost it further. The extent of his materialism is seen when the camera pans over a vast array of all Kane’s possessions, many still unopened.
This panning shot depicts the extent of what Kane has collected due to his ego as he thought that material possessions could boost his ego further. But also his egotistical nature has led to the breakdown of every relationship he had, causing him to substitute people with objects, but ultimately leaving him to die alone. This is seen in the opening scene, Kane is dying and is holding a snow globe and recites his final words “Rosebud”. The snow globe is a clear link to Kane’s childhood through the snow and the rustic house within, whilst “rosebud” is his childhood sled. As the snow globe shatters, it is clear that throughout his joyful childhood was his motivation, as he spent his entire life obsessed with his notoriety as he craved love from others, but in the end that could never replace the abandonment he felt when he was taken away.