Citizen Kane

In your view, how have cinematic techniques been used to reveal memorable ideas in Welles’ Citizen Kane?

Orson Welles employed innovative and memorable cinematic techniques in the making of Citizen Kane in order to communicate insights which make an impact on the audience. These include comments on: the ambiguous nature of the truth; the corrupting effect of power on ideals; and the cinematic experience.

Citizen Kane is largely concerned with exposing the deceit and manipulation inherent in the media, particularly that owned by William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper mogul of the early twentieth and the founder of ‘yellow journalism’. Welles’ statement on ‘truth’ in the media is perhaps best summed up in Kane’s line: “Don’t believe everything you hear on the radio. Read The Inquirer.” Other than the obvious self-aware irony of this line, given by the founder of The Inquirer with a cheeky smile, the line is also a sly nod to Welles’ own history on radio, and particularly the War of the Worlds prank. The 1940s audience would have recognised this intertextuality and appreciated its comment on the untrustworthiness of the media. In order to further press this point on the ambiguity of ‘truth’, Welles uses techniques such as the whirling collage of newspaper headlines to open the film. The newspapers’ headlines juxtapose drastically different takes on the same event; The Inquirer claims “Entire Nation Mourns Great Publisher”, whereas its rival paper, The Chronicler, asserts that “Few Will Mourn Him.” This not only introduces the film’s subject of a newspaper mogul and the influence of fame, but also the fact that ‘truth’ is not subjective, certainly not in the media. The contrasting perspectives leave the audience curious; this curiosity is then echoed by the onscreen journalists, who commence the film’s driving quest for the truth about “Rosebud”. However in seeking to discover this, the journalist Thompson continues to come up against obstacles: each interviewee’s...