Welles’ depiction of Kane is a split between two personas executed into one role. On one hand, the gentle giant businessman appeals in such a way to purport a dutiful obligation to help the less fortunate, yet the moral and social ineptness he obliges by defeats that purpose. One of the glaring themes in Citizen Kane is ambition. Possession of any sort seems to be a key element of Kane’s ambition. As reckless as Kane is in his selfish quest for worldly possessions, he also haphazardly neglects his responsibility as publisher of two prestigious newspapers while flying absentmindedly around the world to accumulate artistic statuettes for the mere purpose of just having them. Kane had an insatiable appetite. Greed is a secondary theme in Citizen Kane.
What cause and effect from Kane’s childhood manifests in the man? Kane never fully comes to terms with his past hurts. His childhood separation from his parents relegates him to mourn rebelliously. Walter Parks Thatcher, the banker, taking on the responsibility to raise Kane, is despised for his good-heartedness. One of the underlying themes in Citizen Kane is grief. Kane’s grief manifests into selfish pride and indignant ambition.
What issues prompt Kane to use unsavory mischievous business practices and place unscrupulous demands on others? Kane’s goal was never money, property and prestige, in contrast, he cared little about any of it as evidenced by the way he treated his possessions with little or no respect. He treated people like his possessions. He had no inclination to run a newspaper business ethically. The notion of him being a political savior was shortsighted. Just as Kane thought it “would be fun” to run a newspaper, wishful thinking of the power of a political figure was attractive to him.
Theirs’ and other omniscient narration make up the entire structure of the story. The nondiegetic sound elements: the heavy-laden background music and sound effects, such as the distinct click sound heard from the newspaper journalist’s camera bulb are effectively realistic and are woven into the diegetic components of the film through the story’s narration. Having no real experience with using sound in a film, Welles only familiarity was his experience with theater radio where he honed his skills at RKO Radio pictures. The ambiance of sound in Citizen Kane added another of layer of clarity. Every scene had a purpose. The characters’ articulation of words carried a greater depth of sound than what was usually seen in film in that era. It can be likened to watching live theater where sound is expounded with emphasis on expressions via the characters. The audibleness and closed shot framing created deeper characterization with the overlapping dialogue and the medium close up shots as seen through much of the back story narration using the locus of the characters perspectives vividly. Unlike omniscient point of view where filmmakers and cinematographers frame shots wider and away from most of the action, Citizen Kane is filmed subjectively from the POV of the characters.
Working with a limited amount of space to begin with, it’s innovative as well as visionary that Welles uses the set and sound in such a way that it makes the characters personable. One such scene where the framing works well in relation to background sound is evidenced in the first half of the movie at the eye-level desk shot of Thatcher, who is completely out of the shot except for his hands holding the newspaper in a close up shot of the front page framing the bold headlines in a closed shot. Within that same scene another shot pushes to Thatcher in a medium close up with about ¼ of his body turned towards the camera looking dead on while sitting at a desk. The expression on his face speaks volumes without an utterance from him while in the foreground the hustle and bustle of the newspaper business bellows out on the screen.
These long to medium shots of the newsroom ceiling gives an illusion of what a print media conglomerate feels and looks like: cramped with a slew of papers and typewriters coupled with an aura of pressure that signifies the inevitable tight deadlines that are all too prevalent in a newsroom environment.
Citizen Kane is a great film. What makes it particularly so is the film's development through limited technical mechanisms that are now common in the film industry. There is also a semblance of true-to-life characters that the audience connects with. Some film critics think that Welles told bits and pieces of his own life in this film, while others stated newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst was the premise for this film. As a journalist, I delved inside the film hoping to see components of good journalism. Unfortunately, Citizen Kane makes a mockery of professional journalism. I will say though, with each viewing of the film, I glean a different perspective of the mise-en-scène elements working together in telling the story.