Citizen Kane Movie Review

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Citizen Kane Movie Review

Citizen Kane is a masterpiece that illustrates the life of Charles Kane. The review provides much information about the film, including its strong and weak aspects. A critical look at the film suggests that it shows the need to understand and appreciate people while they are still alive and to acknowledge that everything has an end.

Part 1: Film Selection Background Research (Citizen Kane)

Things to FindWhat You LearnedSource
Title  Citizen KaneN/A
Movie or Play?Movie  N/A
Director  Orson WellesWelles (1941)
Writer(s)  Orson Welles and Herman Mankiewicz  Welles (1941)
Lead Actors/Actresses   Charles Foster Kane, Jedediah Leland (Kane’s friend and a reporter), Susan Kane (Kane’s second wife), Mary Kane (Kane’s mother), Monroe Kane (Kane’s first wife), Jerry Thompson (news reporter), and Walter Parks Thatcher (a banker).    Welles (1941)
Genre  DramaN/A
Setting (time and place)  Depending on flashbacks of various episodes in the protagonist’s life, the film mostly happens in three diverse settings. The film is shot in Colorado when Kane was young, New York when he ventured into media business, and Florida when he dies. The film lasts approximately 65 years that covers the entire life of Kane together with the investigation Thompson conducts.  Welles (1941)
Is it based on any source material? If so, what?  The biographical film looks into the legacy and life of Charles Kane (a fictional character). The film is based on real-life story of tycoon William Randolph Hearst who was a renowned newspaper publisher in the U.S. who formed the country’s most expansive newspaper chain and whose techniques significantly impacted the practice of journalism across the U.S.  .  N/A
Creator of source material (if applicable)Not applicable.N/A
Composer of musical scoreBernard Herrmann (1911-1975)Welles (1941)
Date of Original Release1941Welles (1941)
What was going on in the world at the time it was made? (Current events, pop culture, fashion, entertainment, politics, etc.)The film was released when the tension of war was escalating. The World War II had started in 1939 and countries were confronting each other on different fronts.Welles (1941)
Other useful information        The running time for the film that was produced by RKO Radio Pictures and Mercury Productions is 119 minutes and is regarded as an American film.Welles (1941)

Part 2: Viewing Selection Notetaking Guide

Topics / QuestionsYour Notes
Premise What is the main idea and conflict of the story? What is the goal of the characters?    The primary theme in Citizen Kane is the hardship of interpreting one’s life once it has come to an end. Kane tries to regulate how the press covers his political career and to avoid shedding much light into his engagement with Susan.
Plot What are some key events? How is the pacing?Is the plot or ending predictable?    Some of the key events in the plot include Kane’s death that becomes a major news around the globe. Thompson, a journalist gets out to inquire about life of Kane. Through a flashback the film reveals how Kane’s mother run a lucrative mining firm that he handed over to Thatcher to manage the investment. Kane’s secretive love affair with Susan also feature prominently. The plot moves slowly so that it covers Kane’s life from childhood to adulthood. The ending that Kane’s fame would fall is predictable because he starts to encounter many issues even before he falls sick.
Characters What are their names?What are their personalities?What actors or actresses portray them?Are there times the characters are untrue to their personalities?Are there actors or actresses who don’t play their parts well? Are there ones who do exceptionally well?Joseph Cotton as Jedediah, Dorothy Comingore as Susan, Agnes Moorehead as Mary, Ruth Warrick as Emily, Everett Sloane as Bernstein, Erskine Sanford as Herbert Carter, William Alland as Jerry, Harry Shannon as Jim, Orson Welles as Kane, and Philip Zandt as Rawlston. Each of these characters have their unique characters. For example, Kane is charismatic, impulsive, and charming. Her mother Mary is hardworking, kind, patient, and loving. All actors try to handle their parts perfectly.
Music Does it fit the mood of the scene? Are there effective songs? Do their lyrics relate to the scene?How is the musical score?Does it set different moods depending on the scene?  Music is particularly used in Citizen Kane to signify scene changes. A good example of such a change is seen in the early stages of the film, particularly in the newsreel shot after the scene showing Kane’s death. Throughout the entire production, all sounds are in complete harmony. Music adds depth and power to a scene and plays fundamental role in influencing mood.
Lighting Is it ever too dark? Is it ever too bright? Is it just right? Is anything hard to see? Does it set any certain moods?    The filmmakers deploy the cameo lighting approach in many instances in Citizen Kane. Throughout the production, the developer utilizes lighting to enhance settings with appealing shadows and dynamic features (Harris). Effective use of lighting also reveals to the audience a feeling of the role of the newspaper in the production (Harris).
Camera Work What shots and angles do you notice?Are they effective? Are there any you’d do differently?    In the film, the filmmakers fuse camera movement with happenings of the scenes, and perform outstandingly. The shots establish the space and sets the scene, and do this in a visible and open manner. The evident shooting technique in the film is the deep focus that requires cinematographers to fuse composition, lighting, and the nature of camera lens to generate the required effects. It is also possible to identify a close-up shot that add emotions to particular scenes, thereby forming a strong emotional attachment between the viewer and the film.
Genre Expectations   What is the genre? What traits and tropes of the genre does it include? Are there any traits or tropes that don’t match the genre? Are there any expected traits or tropes that are missing?      Citizen Kane is a drama because it tells a story with many conflicts and high stakes. The drama, like many others, is follows a plot and demands that every member of cast move the storyline forward. The drama follows a clearly formulated plot outline, depicting real-life encounters or severe encounters with emotionally-propagated members of cast.
Continuity Errors (if applicable) Do you notice any?Which kinds of continuity errors are they?What were they?    A film may contain a continuity error, which refers to a disruption in the consistency of a story or scene being depicted. An evident continuity error in the film is where Susan is playing a jigsaw puzzle and it appears in the first wide shot that the game is nearly complete, but it appears uncompleted in the following close-up.
Historical Accuracy (if applicable) What seems to be historically accurate? Is there anything that isn’t historically accurate?The scene where Kane’s business is disrupted by the stock market crash in 1929 is true because it is during this time that many companies suffered the effects of the economic downturn.
Other Notes What other things are worth making note of?    The film because of its date of production appears like a black-and-white classic film.

Part 3: Film purpose (Citizen Kane)

The purpose of Citizen Kane is to show the need to understand people and appreciate and criticize them before they die because this becomes difficult upon their demise. Kane leads a lavish life, thanks to a strong foundation he received from his rich mother. He also seems to be experiencing some form of loneliness, which evident in the way he switches women. However, it is difficult to get a clear meaning and intention of the leading cast without him being alive to give first-hand experience. News reporters and those who knew him have no option but to speculate what may have happened. In addition to the primary purpose of the film, its producers intended to pass other critical information to the audience. It seeks to show that despite being so much influential, it is possible to crumble and nothing lasts forever. Kane emerges as a powerful and influential member of the society through his business empires, particularly his publishing firm that has immense effect all over the country (Welles). Depreciation in business operations following the great economic depression contributed towards his economic woes. Furthermore, Kane’s inappropriate spending behaviors also facilitated his depreciation. The compounding problems leave Kane with no option but to sell his media empire to Thatcher (Welles). The audience learns from the film, therefore, that what a person has now does not really determine their future well-being, which makes it necessary to be cautious at all times to avoid unexpected downturns. However, viewers must be keen to understand its primary purpose.

Part 4: Review of Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane is an America drama film that revolves around the life of Kane through a flashback. The director, Orson Welles, selects cast members carefully to create the film that some regard as the greatest production ever made and has won numerous accolades for its outstanding performance. The key casts in the film, including Charles Foster Kane, Jedediah Leland (Kane’s friend and a reporter), Susan Kane (Kane’s second wife), Mary Kane (Kane’s mother), Monroe Kane (Kane’s first wife), Jerry Thompson (news reporter), and Walter Parks Thatcher (a banker). However, many others characters feature in the film and contribute significantly towards plot development. One of the leading reasons behind the prosperity of the film is that the director and characters work in harmony to deliver the masterpiece.

Critics and reviewers often believe that the leading character in Citizen Kane is based on William Hearst, who successfully established a media empire during the late 1800s and the early 1900s. Though the film is fictional, various parallels between the two (Kane and Hearst) make the link between the two personalities undisputable. Actually, the leading character in Citizen Kane was created after media tycoon Hearst, who in real life attempted by all means to prevent the production of the film.

The drama film has both positive and negative aspects. The camerawork and music are impressive despite being produced at a time when technology had not progressed significantly. It qualifies to be a drama because of emerging conflicts and its high stakes. Furthermore, the story follows a particular plot that has a start and finishing. Another strong feature in the film is that the sound is not poorly done. However, concerns emerge that despite having gained much prominence across its target audience, the film has certain boring aspects, especially in scenes where characters engage in prolonged talks. Continuity errors also contribute to the flaws in Citizen Kane. Nonetheless, the weaknesses does not hamper delivery of the key message.

Overall, I think that Citizen Kane is a great production despite facing numerous oppositions. The fact that it received numerous awards and accolades and was nominated in many fields indicate that it attracted the hearts of many people. Furthermore, the idea that the film still serves as a source of reference in academic purposes and other areas indicate that it has much influence. I would recommend that other people watch the film and give their views on how it tries to relay its message through the different approaches its makers deploy in the production process.


The study is a critical analysis of Citizen Kane. The American drama film seeks to pass two main messages; to show how it is difficult to describe the life of a person after their death and to show how things come to an end, which calls for proper planning and increased focus on future happenings. The director works perfectly with the characters to deliver a masterpiece that continue to have much significance. Despite some evident weaknesses the film serves fundamental roles in impacting the lives and perceptions of its audience. 

Works Cited

Harris, Brittani. “Cameo Lighting Explained: What it is and how to Use it.” Videomaker, Accessed 22 Nov. 2021

Welles, Orson. Citizen Kane. USA: RKO Radio Pictures.

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