Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Citizen Kane...my favorite part

I love this conversation between Kane and Susan. They're in the fireplace room and everything is falling apart. Susan doesn't pretend she loves him anymore and she's given up on the opera dream. Kane has no ambitions left. He's tried to make her happy by staging an opera for her to sing in but it failed so now he's gone backwards to being simple. And that doesn't work. He can't win. We've all felt this way.

I can't get over how powerful it is that he repeats the same line. "I thought we might have a picnic tomorrow."
She's laid down an argument that's impossible to beat. And she's being so bitchy because she wants out. And if he bites and starts to argue it makes him seem like he's actually still trying to fight for her love or to salvage the marriage. But because he repeats that line it's like he's completely defeated. He's almost talking to himself. And his delivery is the from depths of sadness.
They eventually go on the picnic and he is completely miserable and she is still complaining. He hits her and that about wraps up the marriage. But this one line repeated is priceless. I can't find a clip with that scene in it but it's my favorite in the whole movie.

01:41:10 Kane: ...but you get into the habit.
01:41:12 Susan: It's not a habit, I do it because I like it.
01:41:16 Kane: I thought we might have a picnic tomorrow.
01:41:21 Kane: Invite everybody to spend the night at the Everglades.
01:41:24 Susan: Invite everybody. Order everybody, you mean, and make them sleep in tents.
01:41:28 Susan: Who wants to sleep in tents when they've got their own room...
01:41:32 Susan ...with a bath, where they know where everything is?
01:41:34 Kane: I thought we might have a picnic tomorrow.
01:41:41 Susan: You never give me anything I really care about.

This taught me a lot about writing dialogue. When you have two people with truly different agendas then you aren't always supposed to get an argument. Sometimes you go with the argument if it suits you, but sometimes you just have two people who aren't on the same page at all. They don't argue, instead they just maintain their course and it's not even a collision. It's just the fact they are in the same room that they are talking at all. But really they aren't communicating. This is dramatic dialogue because it doesn't ever really take place in real life. We've learned the art of arguing like on soap operas where it escalates. But this is dramatic in the sense that they are saying what they are thinking regardless of what the other person is saying. They aren't listening at all. Sometimes you want characters to be snippy and contrary, other times they don't care anymore and at that point only the audience is seeing both sides. See? It's a device to get the audience to ignore the words. It's also non-linear because the argument gets derailed. He still wants to have the picnic. But is it about a picnic? It can't be. He's miserable. She doesn't want to go. So what's it about? The argument isn't about a picnic and the first clue is that he repeats himself.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.