"It begins with young Charles Kane in long shot, playing with his sled in the snow. The camera then pulls back to reveal that it has been shooting through a window. This effect creates a visual metaphor. The boy playing in the snow is not as free as he at first seems. Just as his image is suddenly confined by a window frame, so his life will be circumscribed by a decision that is being made for him inside the house. Kane's mother appears at the window calling out to her son to 'Be careful,' and 'Put your muffler around your neck, Charles.' As the camera tracks back, wards from the window into the space of the house, it reveals Mr. Thatcher standing at the right of the window. He says, 'We'll have to tell him now.' Ignoring this comment, the mother replies, 'I'll sign those papers now, Mr. Thatcher.' From frame left Kane's father appears, saying, 'You people seem to forget that I'm the boy's father.' The camera tracks backwards as Mrs. Kane walks over to a desk in the foreground of the image and sits down to sign the papers, with Thatcher seated next to her. An argument ensues in which the father, who appears in the middle ground of the image, strongly protests the mother's decision to hand his son over to a bank and threatens to take the case to court. The mother is icily adamant in honoring the agreement she has made with Thatcher. In exchange for the bank's full assumption of the management of the gold mine (the Colorado Lode), the bank which Thatcher represents will assume full responsibility for all matters concerning the boy's education and place of residence. Mr. and Mrs. Kane will receive fifty thousand dollars a year as long as they both live. This last bit of information, which Thatcher reads aloud, silences the father, who mutters, 'Well, let's hope it's all for the best.'
Throughout the scene, while all this activity takes place, we can see the boy Charles playing with his sled far in the back of the image, in extreme long shot, framed by the window pane, and totally oblivious to the momentous decision his mother has made about his life. Because of the length of the shot and the careful blocking of the action, our eye is free to focus on whichever player we choose, or our attention can wander from one player to another, as if we were spectators in the theater.
At the same time, the camera places us sufficiently close to the actors in the foreground of the image that we can read their expressions with much greater clarity than would be possible in the theater. We can look for clues in the frozen but somehow anguished expression of Mrs. Kane for why she is so determined to separate herself from her son. We can wonder in observing the slightly exasperated and nervous expression on Thatcher's face what kind of guardian he will make for a young boy. Or we can observe the father's angry, worried expression and wonder why he backs down. The father's position further back in the screen space makes him seem smaller than his wife and Mr. Thatcher, his diminished size somehow appropriate to his lack of power to influence his son's fate. The crowning brilliance of the scene is the tiny image of Charles Kane far in the depth of the screen space. Although the film is about him and in later scenes he will loom large indeed, here he is a tiny speck. On first viewing the film, some may not even notice him. But his understated presence playing outside the window, shouting 'Union forever' as his mother is about to send him off into the world without her, is one of the most poignant moments in film."
(Marilyn Fabe, 2004, p.85-86)
3). Marilyn Fabe (2004). "Chapter 5 Expressive Realism" in "Closely Watched Films: An Introduction to the Art of Narrative Film Technique", University of California Press (3 Aug 2004)
"Also interesting from the perspective of temporality, along with Tarr's staggeringly long takes, is the film's narrative structure, which is what I call 'surprise non-linearity.' As the film begins we watch events that are occurring in a forward, linear temporality (with minor ellipsis' occurring in between certain shots). At a certain point we experience a sense of deja vu which shakes this temporal foundation: a scene which we have already scene repeats but from a different spatial and narrational point of view. In this case the moment occurs, as noted in the beginning, from the position of the doctor's desk. In the film's second scene we see a man who has slept with a married woman sneak out of the house when the husband returns home. The camera later cuts outside to an image of the adulterer hiding behind the corner of a house out of view of the husband, who is in the middle background of the shot looking out into the expanse. Forty or so minutes into the film we see this same mise en scene of the man hiding from the husband but from the doctor's point of view, as he writes the event down in his notebook. This stuttering temporality occurs on several occasions. Offscreen contributor Randolph Jordan tells me that when he saw Béla Tarr present this film in Vancouver the director used the tango to explain the film's temporal structure: two steps forward, one step back. One can also see the temporal structure as an echo of the film's metaphorical use of the spider. Several of the film's intertitles make reference to the spider, and the spider makes a physical appearance at the end of the long pub dance scene. In a long lateral tracking shot of the drunken revelers a spider can be briefly scene in the foreground of a shot spinning a web between two glasses. The voice-over tells us that the spider will be spinning its web around the objects, and around the people in the pub, echoing of course the messiah's trap. The spiral-like shape of the spider web acts as an apt parallel to the film's narrative temporality. This type of 'surprise non-linearity' has become quite common in recent years. A list of films which use such a structure, to varying degrees and ends, includes Korean director Hong Sang-Joo's The Power of Kangwon Province/Kangwondo Eui Him (1998) and Virgin Stripped Bare by her Naked Bachelors (2000), Mystery Train (jim Jarmusch, 1989), Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1995), Heaven (Scott Reynold, 1998), Before the Rain (Milcho Manchevski, 1994), and A Moment of Innocence (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1996)."