The Ambiguity Of Citizen Kane

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Citizen Kane, the 1941 film directed by Orson Welles, is the fictional semi-biographical examination of newspaper mogul Charles Foster Kane’s life. After a screening of a “News on the March” newsreel encapsulating Kane’s life, the producer, Mr. Rawlston, proclaims that “It isn’t enough to tell [the viewer] what a man did, you’ve got to tell [them] who he was” (qtd. in Bordwell, Thompson, 102). Mr. Rawlston sends news reporter Jerry Thompson in search of the meaning of Kane’s last word before his death, “Rosebud”, as a way of learning who the real Charles Foster Kane was. Both the viewer and Thompson learn about Kane’s life through various stories told by those close to him. At the end of the film though, after hearing about Kane from a bevy …show more content…
Everything that is known about Kane throughout the film is told from the perspective of someone else. The people that Thompson speaks to, for the most part, have very strong feelings about Kane, such as his friend and colleague Jedediah Leland and his second wife Susan Alexander Kane. Although they know things about Kane, they are nothing more than witnesses to Kane’s life. The fact that Kane is dead means we never get his story, but instead a collection of memories from other people that we stitch together almost like a puzzle (108). The unordered and “gradual revelation” of Kane’s life throughout the film is filled with holes that remind the viewer the stories they are hearing are all from witnesses (108). It is important to acknowledge, the possibility that the stories being told by those around Kane are biased. Both Leland and Susan have rough relationships with Kane in the end and this causes a falling out between them (108). Ultimately the viewer can see that no one ever truly knew Kane or understood his …show more content…
Although Thompson may seem like a central character because it is his job to interview those around Kane, Welles makes sure that it is Kane’s story the viewer pays more attention to. By choosing to hide Thompson’s face in the shadows and having his back turned toward the camera Welles used the mise-en-scène to show that Thompson was a neutral character, much like the viewer, that was learning about Kane through the stories he heard (109). By keeping Thompson as an anonymous journalist and not divulging anything about his past, it helps keep Kane’s life the central focus of the film (109). Unfortunately, in the same way much of Thompson is kept in the shadows, much of Kane’s personal life is as well. The only things the viewer learns about Kane as a result of Thompson’s investigation are those that are seen: events that were witnessed by one person or another, but there is still the side of Kane that no one saw and that is the side that no one ever truly gets to

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