Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane

Most Remarkable Scenes



Citizen Kane was inspired in press magnate William Randolph Hearst’s life, being Xanadu a reference to his San Simeon residence, where Hearst passed his life collecting art objects with his second wife, the failed opera singer Susan Alexander.



The opening of the film is full of images rich in meanings but the whole picture has unusual camera takes and lighting. Orson Welles elaborated a cinematograph and narrative style for Citizen Kane, proposing that spectators be able to decipher the images and implied messages on their own, as they appear to them.


It has an innovative language, using the appeals of the subjective camera, which acts as a further narrator, in addition to the other five narrators in the movie.


The first scene to be analyzed refers to the political meeting in which Kane defends his candidacy. There are many similarities with Hitler’s audiences as well as the Nazi-fascist propaganda. Moreover, the cine-fictional newspaper "News on the March" shows Kane with several world leaders of that time, including Hitler, who appears in a balcony with Kane.


Watch now the passage with the presentation of the "News on the March" by accessing:






        We may say that Kane's dominant motivation throughout his adult life was to recapture the freedom he enjoyed playing in the snow outside his parents’ house. So, his boyhood games will soon be contrasted with the programmed life he is going to have after being under the responsibility of Mr. Thatcher.


The first picture above shows when his mother signs the document that makes him a ward of the financier Mr. Thatcher. While the boy is being negotiated to a banker, we may see his image framed by the window, in perfect focus just like the very first plan, in a technique called depth of field.


Kane’s mother negotiates using the same financial jargons as Mr.Thacher while his father uses the colloquial speech to disapprove the terms agreed. The white simple woodcutter house is a reference to Abraham Lincoln’s myth of equality and natural rights.



By using the same technique, Welles allows us to see now Kane's closest friend Leland (who is beginning to worry about Kane's egomaniac tendencies) talking about him while figuratively blowing into Kane's face.






Examples of extreme backlighting to make figures appear as silhouettes. Due to this technique, characters remain anonymous, creating a forbidding atmosphere as seen in the German Expressionist films.

        Again, the use of strange angles through broken glasses as well as stark lighting and oppressive sets are examples of techniques with German Expressionist influences.


This scene shows the ball of glass which means the link with Kane’s lost past. The first part of the film, predominantly male, tells the story of a radical Kane, an edipian who continues to fight against his substitute father. The second part, dominated by Susan, shows him isolated from public life and accumulating things in a fetishistic way, as if he was trying to fill the vacuum of his first loss.



Kane is not interested in productive capital or in the abstract, symbolic concepts of money and exchange. The Protestant ethic of productive capitalism and the squander accumulation of capital through the accumulation of useless things are, therefore, in frontal opposition.



In this scene, we see the presence of the evil. Susan tries to assemble a puzzle and over her there is a frightening figure. Kane, then, distances himself and stands in front of fireplace, which looks more like a large mouth ready to devours him. In the center of the scene, Susan resembles the statue that is just behind her.


Kane marries Susan and launches her on a disastrous career as an opera singer. He buys her an entire Opera House for her first public performance. It is as if he had prepared a voyeur scenario to himself, something monumentally expensive and refined, where his fetishized object could represented only for him while he simultaneously showed it (her) the world.

The darkness of the audience, as the opera begins. As the virginal Susan of their initial encounter gives way to the tormented shrew, she often seems stuck in some nether world that has little room for others, certainly not for Charles. As Charles pushes her into opera, she becomes more unhinged to the point that she attempts suicide. Director Welles shoots her in stark close-ups or isolates her on stage, a naive in the land of predators.



      The classic mirror scene, a technique largely used by the German filmmaker Fritz Lang. If San Simeon had not existed, the authors would have to invent it.



     Watch now the opening scenes of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane by accessing the limk below: