Orson Welles

Orson Welles liked to reuse certain elements throughout his films. He liked a good deep focus
shot. He liked low key lighting. He liked the grotesque side of life, blocking actors in groups of
three, low camera angles and especially pointy bras. He also liked to open his movies in a certain
predictable way. In Citizen Kane, he used the announcer in "News on the March" to introduce the subject
and main character, Charles Foster Kane. In The Magnificent Ambersons, Welles himself dubs the
voice-over which introduces the life and environment of the Amberson family. The Irish Welles serves as
a story teller in the beginning of Lady from Shanghai, recalling the beginnings of his plight and giving
insight into his character. Welles reads the enigmatic parable, serving as the basis of Kafka’s work,
The Trial.
However, in Touch of Evil, the viewer can not hear the booming instruction of an announcer, nor
is the primary character revealed or the plot introduced by a Wellesian voice over. In Touch of Evil,
Welles parts with his usual opening style in favor of a much more dramatic method of introduction; this
creates a less obvious, yet more intimate initial interaction between the characters on the screen and
the viewer in the seat.
Foremost, Welles’s legendary long shot opens the film. These three minutes and twenty seconds
have many effects upon the viewer in introducing this movie. The primary purpose of this shot is to
slowly draw the viewer in to the story by limiting the viewer’s role in the film; he doesn’t allow the
viewer to actively enter the world of the film. Rather, he constrains the viewer to simply observe the
actions presented without allowing the viewer to get involved in the action. After the initial focus on
the time bomb and its intrinsic importance to the plot, the camera moves away from the action. At the
same point, Mancini’s score begins, providing intrigue and promoting the viewer’s interest in the scenes
revealed while, through the rhythmic ticking of the bongos, also supplies a constant reminder of the
ticking time-bomb waiting to explode. Stepping back, the camera reveals the wider picture of the town;
just as an establishing shot serves to orient the viewer without disp!
laying any intimate action, Welles’s camera then begins to introduce the setting to the viewer. However,
Welles limits the viewer’s interaction by not involving the viewer in any specific action. Rather, the
focus of attention shifts continually between different points of interest. First, the focus is the
doomed car driving pulling out of the parking lot, then driving down the street. Then attention shifts
to the other activity on the street, then back to the car, and then on the entrance of Mr. and Mrs.
Vargas. Until the end of the scene, the Vargases and Linnaker’s car battle for attention as they
continually pass each other within the camera’s view. This shifting of focus keeps the viewer just that:
an observer looking into this world through the camera. Welles also reinforces this feeling by raising
the camera to unhuman points of view above the action. It eliminates any initial intimacy the viewer
could form with the characters. Therefore, the viewer gets a broa!
d overview of the town, the atmosphere, and the people before gradually entering this world.
Welles first invites the viewer into the scene as the camera finally returns to a human point of
view at the border checkpoint. This change, not by coincidence, comes with the first words spoken in the
film. Welles uses these two factors to humanize the camera and draw the viewer into this interaction
between the Vargases and the border guard. However, the view remains imperfect for a human participant
in the scene. The floating movement of the camera, a left over attribute from the beginning of the shot,
remains to remind the viewer that he is not yet totally immersed in the action. Then, with a dolly into
the kissing couple, Welles gains some intimacy between the viewer and the characters. However, still
just an outside observer, it takes the violent explosion to suddenly snap the viewer into the story.
With the first cut of the film, Welles shocks the viewer into entering this reality.
With the subsequent low angle, hand held tracking shot along the ground, Welles finally changes the
viewpoint of the film. The high amount of energy in the shot, as opposed to the previous dream-like
sequence, energizes the viewer, drawing him into the action. The shaky style of