The film Citizen Kane is renowned for its use of montage, and the breakfast montage is one of the most iconic scenes in the film. This montage shows Charles Foster Kane eating breakfast alone in his vast mansion, surrounded by objects that he has collected over his life.
Throughout the scene, we see Kane interacting with his possessions in a way that reveals his isolation and loneliness. He seems to take no pleasure in any of them, and they only serve to remind him of his own mortality. This is summed up by the final shot of the montage, in which Kane stares at a snow globe that he has just dropped, seeing his own reflection gazing back at him.
The breakfast montage is a masterful use of film technique to create a powerful emotional impact. It is a perfect example of how montage can be used to tell a story and create mood and atmosphere.
The breakfast montage in Citizen Kane reveals Charles and Emily’s failing marriage, though the mise-en-scene and technical devices reinforcing this idea are less noticeable. The changing attitude of the actors, their costumes, and the lighting each subtly support how a career can ruin even the strongest relationship.
The breakfast montage is introduced by a close-up shot of Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) and his second wife, Emily Norton Kane (Ruth Warrick), sitting at a table in their separate beds, eating breakfast. The viewer gets the sense that they are not on good terms with each other as they silently eat their meal.
This is further emphasized by the fact that they are not looking at each other, but rather, looking down at their food. As the film progresses, we see shots of the couple getting ready for the day while they continue to fight. Emily is seen putting on her makeup while Charles shaves, and she is clearly not happy with him. She gives him a dirty look in the mirror and he doesn’t seem to notice.
The next shots show the couple getting dressed and heading out for the day. Emily is now wearing a brighter, more cheerful outfit, while Charles is still in his dark suit. This contrast in color represents the differing moods of the two characters. Emily is trying to put on a brave face, while Charles is clearly not interested in reconciling with her. The final shot of the montage shows the couple sitting in their car, ready to head out for the day. They are still not looking at each other and the tension between them is evident.
Throughout the breakfast montage, there is a constant juxtaposition of light and dark colors. The shots of Emily getting ready for the day are all lit with bright, natural light, while the shots of Charles are all lit with dark, artificial light. This contrast further emphasizes the difference in their moods and the state of their relationship. The film ends with a shot of the couple driving away from their home, and the darkness engulfing them represents the bleak future that awaits them.
The mise-en-scene and technical tools employed in the montage are not constrained to this portion of the film. In reality, they’re used in numerous other sequences throughout the movie to reveal other connections that have fallen apart as a result of Kane’s job, such as his friendship with Jed Leland and relationship with Susan Alexander.
The actors’ emotions during each sequence in the montage and their position in relation to one another are all examples of the mise-en-scene representing Charles and Emilys feelings for one another as time passes in their marriage.
The first sequence in the montage is of Charles and Emily having breakfast together. They sit on opposite sides of the table, with a large window between them. The sun shines in through the window, casting a bright light on Emily’s face and causing her to squint. Charles is well lit too, but not to the same degree. This could be interpreted as Emily being blinded by love or happiness at this stage in their relationship, while Charles is more clear-eyed. Another possibility is that Orson Welles is trying to show that Emily sees Charles as perfect, while he himself is aware of Kane’s flaws.
The second sequence takes place at night, with only a small lamp providing light. The couple is again sitting at opposite ends of the table, but this time there is no window between them. Emily’s face is in shadow, while Charles is well lit. This could symbolize that their relationship has cooled and that Emily now sees Kane in a different light.
The final sequence takes place in an empty room with only a single lightbulb hanging overhead. Charles and Emily are once again sitting at opposite ends of the table, but this time they are facing each other. Both their faces are in shadow, symbolizing the darkness that has fallen over their relationship.
The Citizen Kane breakfast montage is a masterful example of mise-en-scene and technical devices being used to tell a story.
A comedy follows as the clip goes forward. After a long night of parties, two people playfully flirt to one another in the opening section. Charles becomes a butler when he serves his wife, just like Emily. She giggles and beams as she begs her spouse to stay at home with her for a few extra minutes before he goes to work, while Charles laughs and smiles.
The playful banter and the loving looks exchanged between the two show that they are still very much in love with each other even after years of marriage.
The montage then jumps to Charles leaving for work, with Emily sadly waving goodbye to him. It is clear that she doesn’t want him to leave, but understands that he has to go. The montage then shows Charles going about his day-to-day routine as a newspaper mogul. He is shown giving orders to his employees, attending meetings, and working on his latest article. All the while, Emily is at home by herself, feeling lonely and miserable.
The montage ends with Charles coming home from work, exhausted and angry. He barely has time to say hello to his wife before he goes to bed. Emily is left sitting by herself, once again feeling neglected and alone.
The Citizen Kane breakfast montage is a heartbreaking look at a marriage that has lost its spark. It shows how two people who were once madly in love with each other can grow apart over time. Charles is so wrapped up in his work that he doesn’t have time for his wife, and Emily is left feeling lonely and forgotten. The montage is a powerful commentary on the state of marriages today, and leaves the viewer wondering if anything can be done to save them.
In conclusion, the breakfast montage in Citizen Kane is a masterfully crafted scene that uses various cinematic techniques to reinforce the idea of a failing marriage. The actors’ performances, the progression of costumes, and the use of lighting all work together to create a powerful visual representation of Kane’s inability to sustain a successful relationship.