Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

The Deep Focus

The deep focus on Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane refers to everything in the background and frame. In addition to making cinematic advances in many areas, its contribution comes from using techniques that people are familiar with, in the first place, as in-depth focus. By focusing on cinematographic significance, the film compares the frame between objects and characters in the foreground as a focus.

The type of camera lens used in producing the effect Welles wants requires cinematography to combine composition and lighting. The deep focus is most effective in scenes depicting Charles Foster Kane’s loss of control as the protagonist and his isolation in giving the audience a clear view. The view produces the space that Kane commands over which the space has no control. In effectively manipulating the overall scene, deep focus actively engages the entire frame space without confusing the audience.

In working with Gregg Toland, who had previously worked with Welles on the film The Long Voyage Home, in addition to having used such a technique, he also marked the first time he used the technique effectively and extensively. One of the innovations was to introduce a deletion technique, where one Welles image was removed from the screen by another. Therefore, it introduces mainstream filmmaking to the creative potential of other cinematic techniques, involving unique experiments using different camera angles.

The Non-linear Tool

Apart from acting almost as a biopic, Citizen Kane also uses creative non-linear storytelling techniques. Instead of Welles narrating its narrative linearly, Kane’s story unfolds in completely chronological overlapping segments. It adds more information when the narrator adds their story. It allows characters to age as the story progresses, realistically depicting long periods. Many filmmakers use flashbacks.

However, the film uses it effectively, fully telling the protagonist’s life story in flashback as another innovative approach to storytelling. In other words, Welles provides flashbacks from the perspective of both forgetful and aging characters, casting doubt on the memories the characters are discussing. People can call it an unreliable narrator, a narrator who cannot remember every main character.

Any interpretation or opinion of the character affects the accuracy of the tale of Kane. In the end, it left more questions than answers, no doubt inviting sympathy more than insult. Welles manages to paint Kane using such a technique as a puzzle, telling the story of a complicated but tormented man. Additionally, the Mercury Theatre cast members that Welles chose are classically trained theater actors.

No one had ever made a film before Welles brought everyone to Hollywood. Such a cast is an asset to the film as well as being critical to the success of techniques such as deep focus.

The Controversies

Citizen Kane complements the use of deep focus. Instead of being too strong, each cast’s stage training helps each actor position strongly against the other in every scene. While not one individual technique, the combination of innovative techniques makes the film a cinematically significant film. Welles combines the techniques of acting and cinematography to perfection, resulting in the total control that Welles exerts over casting.

On the other hand, many critics say that the film served as the first film noir. It was a direct precursor of noir, at least in terms of its innovative use of shadows or lighting. It is a genre that uses a dark and gloomy atmosphere to add to the events that the film often includes, making them mysterious and violent. Amid the innovation, the achievement of Welles as well in the film marks a new direction in the world of cinema.

Many innovations made the film the most exciting in the history of cinema at the time. Despite the controversy as well, it introduced Hollywood to the creative potential of cinematic technique. In terms of controversies, Welles is used to receiving full acclaim for the projects on which he frequently collaborates, even before the film is finished.

William Randolph Hearst

Generally, the apparatus credits the Mercury Theatre on the Air script as a studio production. Until the huge success of the War of the Worlds radio broadcast, it generated a lot of publicity. Therefore, Welles decided to take full authorship credit. Although Howard Koch, the studio writer, had written it, the theater continued to push Welles into taking credit for the production. Welles’ reputation and name put trust in Welles to bring good publicity.

Fortunately, his reputation as a theater genius had grown since his teenage years, so the theater took advantage of him. By dominating Citizen Kane, Welles’ biggest controversy is over who wrote the script. Such battles have colored much of the discussion about the film over the years. His presence and stellar acting in the film, not just as producer and director, are incredible both on and off the screen.

It is the result of a successful collaboration between the great minds of Hollywood at the time. Of course, Welles played a key role in writing the film. However, he did not make the script alone. Herman Mankiewicz, a tough Hollywood screenwriter, knows William Randolph Hearst very well. After spending a lot of time at Hearst’s ranch in San Simeon, much evidence suggests that the original idea for the film also came from him.

Herman J. Mankiewicz

Hearst is the embodiment of Kane’s character in many specific personal ways. As for the protagonist of the film, such information could only come from insider knowledge of Hearst’s life. Therefore, Welles did not have the idea of Hearst. He only played an important role in creating the script where critics doubted that he was drawing from his personal life. In the same way that Mankiewicz draws from Hearst’s life, he’s not the only person in charge of scripting.

It just perfects Kane’s character. Eventually, Welles started buying his publicity. He easily overlooks the fact that he is not the only creative genius behind his group effort. Many people don’t accept his ego when he goes to Hollywood to work in the movies. It’s also no surprise that Hollywood refuses to give Welles an award he doesn’t deserve. In addition, he also met great opposition when he tried to take full credit for creating the film.

On the initial draft of the film, on the other hand, Mankiewicz collaborated with John Houseman, Welles’ partner at the Mercury Theatre. Both Houseman and Mankiewicz were eager to write credits for the final version. However, Welles refused. Houseman gave up when Welles tried hard.

The Drama

However, Mankiewicz has the power of the Hollywood writers’ union behind him. He threatened Welles with legal action to be registered as a writer until Welles surrendered. Citizen Kane won the award for Best Original Screenplay on Oscar night. It was the only Oscar Mankiewicz and Welles had ever received. In general, critics agree that Hearst underlies the protagonist of the film, who built the media empire in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The number of parallels between Hearst and Kane makes the connection between the two undeniable. Regardless of the film’s fiction, Hearst was born on April 29, 1863, in San Francisco, California, to multimillionaires Phoebe Apperson Hearst and George Hearst. Hearst is an only child. His mother always pampers and adores him. He and his mother also frequently travel to Europe.

On the other hand, George stays at home to oversee his kingdom. Although he was never serious about his studies, he went to Harvard. His father had taken over a small paper after deciding he wanted to try a newspaper business on the verge of failure due to his rowdy behavior. The San Francisco Examiner became a debt payment for Hearst until he was determined to run it. Hearst went on to buy the New York Journal, citing Joseph Pulitzer as his idol because of his sensational journalism style.

He lured many Pulitzer staff away from him, much like Kane bought his rival newspaper’s staff.

The Biography of Hearst

Hearst built his national media empire on a foundation, letting neither truth nor money gets in the way of his quest to become the most successful newspaper publisher of all time. The Cuban Revolution of 1895 offered him the perfect opportunity to sell more paper. The often false but sensational reports from Cuba are widely credited with fueling the Spanish-American War by prompting American intervention.

In Citizen Kane, the anecdote, Hearst orders legendary artist Frederic Remington to send news of the war from Cuba. After Remington sent Hearst a telegram saying there was no war, Hearst replied that he would start the war if Remington completed the picture. In addition, by fabricating stories about politicians, he advocated political assassination in an editorial just over a month before McKinley was assassinated.

Committing crimes so that his reporters can write about politics generally takes sensational journalism to new, irresponsible depths. Hearst then met silent film actress Marion Davies in 1918. He started what would become the affair of a lifetime. However, he was also married and had five sons at the time. He and his wife, Millicent Veronica Willson (a former showgirl-turned-housewife), separated in 1926.

Although Willson and Hearst never divorced, Davies and Hearst lived together publicly despite never having been married.


By building the majestic castle of San Simeon for Davies (the inspiration for Xanadu in Citizen Kane), Hearst’s possessions are different from those of the protagonist. It’s not like the lonely fortress of Xanadu. At the onset, San Simeon is full of parties and laughter. After all, Hearst was a voracious collector, always filling his palace with treasures like Kane. He never paid attention to fit and aesthetics, despite starting to suffer financially in the late 1930s.

At the time, Davies saved Hearst’s company by selling a million real estate and jewelry dollars. She also handed the money to Hearst. Indeed, her actions left no doubt about the strength of the relationship between the two. Unlike Susan Alexander’s shaky bond with Kane, Welles and Hearst never met. Despite knowing each other, Welles felt that Hearst had tried to undercut his early theater career.

Of course, both men occupy opposite ends of the political spectrum. However, Hearst is conservative and wealthy. He hated minorities, never trusted Jews, and supported the Nazi party. He was also an anti-communist and an isolationist who hated President Roosevelt and hated the New Deal. Meanwhile, Welles’ first major directing job was with the New York Federal Theater Project.

It was part of the New Deal, providing acting jobs for unemployed black actors. Welles tends towards liberalism, always accepting people because of talent, not because of ethnicity or religion.

Welles and Hearst

As everyone knows, Welles and Hearst are social and political opposites. However, both are selfish and intelligent. People also often pamper both. On the other hand, Welles hates Hearst, identifying him with himself to the point that playing Kane requires him to reconcile conflicting feelings. The audience always wonders how far Kane’s story will be different from his friends’ memories; he can never tell his own life story.

None of the people ever really knew what prompted Kane to do the things he did. However, Thatcher had the opportunity to fully understand him. However, he was too concerned with making money for the sake of having compassion for a lonely child. By viewing Kane through the lens of mature but distant conservatism or acquisitions, different perspectives on Kane’s life force audiences to question what matters in Kane’s life.

It reflects on what shapes life in general, especially in the absence of Kane’s point of view. When people look at Kane’s last words, the most important parts of his life are not the things the media can cover him with. The news can be about political ambition, newspaper success, association, or friendship. Instead, he recalls his memories from his childhood. It became a point where his life changed without him being able to pull back for what seemed to be for the better.

From a materialistic point of view, he makes it singular yet vulnerable.

Charles Foster Kane

Although Welles and Hearst have always been in opposition, it is difficult to make sense of an individual’s life after such a life end. Being the central theme of Citizen Kane, the producer of the biography posed a simple question to a reporter. Who exactly is Charles Foster Kane? After taking an in-depth look at Kane’s life biography that became a film, the producers realized that a man is not always the sum of his actions, possessions, or accomplishments.

However, the thing is that there is a deeper need to encourage him. The hint is that Kane was more than just a public achievement. The last word Kane uttered was “rosebud.” Through the investigation of the Thompson reporter, Kane’s life story is exposed in layers. People close to him began to tell stories about Kane, ranging from these various points of view and special prejudices to ambiguous memories that no one could rely on.

Audiences begin to witness Kane’s story from his acquaintance’s memory, not from the protagonist’s memory. One of the unreliable narrators, Bernstein, provides the first significant reference to memory when he tells Thompson. It’s surprising what a man remembers. Bernstein’s memories of Kane always have the color of his unwavering admiration for him. It persisted even as Kane became increasingly withdrawn to the point of corruption.

On the other hand, a fictional idealized fantasy resembles Kane’s idealistic memories of his childhood. Bernstein’s point of view told Thompson of a girl he saw once but never forgot.

The American Dream

When Thompson meets with Leland (who is suffering from the effects of old age), he claims he can’t remember the name of Kane’s estate. Such aberrations in memory may have a role as a pretense. However, it still cast a shadow of doubt on the reliability of Leland’s memory. Inversely, Susan tells the audience about her living with Kane through the haze of alcohol. Negatively, it affects her memory accuracy as well.

Such an idealized but hazy memory is all that remains of Kane. He was a man who was once so strong and bigger than life. No matter how monumental his achievements were, even a man like Kane would eventually forget. Broadly speaking, Citizen Kane is one of the first films to depict the American Dream. As a child, Kane was very happy playing in the snow outside the family home (one of the best frames in the film).

Despite his parents’ owning a boarding house and being poor, he has no friends to play with. However, he is content to be alone because security and peace only exist within the walls of the house. He got what looked like the American dream when Thatcher moved him from such a place. Material luxuries and financial wealth are in his hands, and he discovers that everything doesn’t make him happy as well.

In the end, the trade-off of emotional security with financial security is not fulfilled. His power is not for the sake of building his happiness. However, it is to buy love or to make others miserable.

The Interpretation of Perspective

Kane’s life ends lonely at Xanadu. His wealth isolated him from others for many years. A bad substitute for a true friend, his possessions, surrounds him when he dies. At one point, Kane was a voracious collector. Bernstein noted that they had so many statues of Venus, the goddess of physical beauty, in newspaper offices that were so full of statues that employees could barely move.

At the end of the film, Kane obsessively fills his estate with possessions. The camera panned to a large room full of crates to show that he had never even unpacked many of the things he had bought. Kane buys art objects so zealously that his behavior more closely resembles predatory gluttony (Kane’s collection is not a discriminating connoisseur). To isolate himself and Susan from those who resist attempts at manipulation, Kane builds his estate.

After his disappointment in the political arena and with Susan’s opera career as well, he filled the castle with inanimate objects. No one can challenge his authority in the world, and he holds complete control over the world he created. Through his materialism, he always tries to correct the humiliation of the real world. He also can’t control his mother’s neglect, Susan’s failed attempts at opera, his political career failure, or the bad opinions of his friends.

The Disparity of Age

By buying so many luxury items, Kane tries to fill the void he created by everyone who left him throughout his life. However, the only two treasures that carry meaning for him on his deathbed are the Rosebud (the sleigh he remembers from his youth) and the Snowball (the final season of his last memories with his sleigh before his parents threw him out). The main character is a man far past his prime, as his counterparts tell Kane’s story after his death.

Everyone’s slump adds another layer of loneliness and sadness to the film. Everyone in the first place is important, active, but vital. At the current time, everyone is bored and has distanced themselves from each other. For example, Bernstein noted that he had no relationship with Kane at all as chairman of the board. Thatcher had died when Thompson read his memoir, which consisted of important source material about Kane’s life.

On the other hand, Leland was in a nursing home, somewhat senile and stiff. As he ages throughout the film, even Kane himself becomes mechanical and devitalizing in his movement. His disfigured and aging condition is seen in the scene where Susan leaves him. She ransacked Kane’s room furiously. She moves rigidly to the point where she has difficulty venting her rage. Susan increases her frustration to the point where she isolates Kane from her feelings.

In the film, old age comes with defeat and does not come with grace.


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