Subjectivity and the inherent mystery of man hinder the ability to find a definitive truth about human experience. Citizen Kane is a story about the struggle for truth. It shows how subjective testimonies such as those found in Thompson’s interviews are unable to provide a reliable picture of Kane. A look at yellow journalism reveals the film’s central critique: society’s obsessions with acquisition make it difficult to keep the truth true. Rosebud mysteries is Kane’s story. It invites viewers to discover their own interpretations of the human experience. But the film’s ambiguous conclusion reveals that such subjective interpretations can’t be considered as the ultimate truth. Citizen Kane is emphasizing the central message of the film about the nature human experience. This is because the perseverance to truth is affected by the subjectivity, as well the complexity of people. This helps to make the film organic and unifying, and it is why it is a must-read text.
Kane’s identity is still largely obscured in the film’s testimony. This shows that human subjective interpretations of reality can limit the perseverance to truth. In the ominous setting at Xanadu, the film’s opening scene foreshadows Kane’s uncertain identity. This is due to Kane’s magisterial grandeur, a literary allusion of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan’, and low-key lighting, which predicts Kane’s obscured representation. The “No Trespassing,” sign that signifies Kane’s intransigence, and later of his human experience, is an additional reminder of this. A sharp tonal shift is evident between the film’s beginning and the obituary footage titled “News of the March”. This sign reinforces the irony of subjective understanding. Comments in the newsreel label Kane a “communist” as well as a ‘capitalist”. These contradictory portrayals of Kane’s identity further hide the paradox of his public image. Roger Ebert, an acclaimed film critic, said that “the film’s construction shows how lives survive only in the memories and roles of others”. This is a reflection of the fragility of subjective testimonies such as those discussed in Thompson’s interviews. Kane’s life is being portrayed by Kane by his main narrators. However, the portrayals by each interviewee of Kane are distorted by their biases and alcoholisms. Thompson’s interview to Jedediah Leland shows that Leland’s tendency towards narrative tangents indicates his inaccuracies and the simplicities in his recollection. That’s Charlie’s story, how it ended” is in contradiction to the film’s overarching theme of the intrinsic complexity and individuality of individuals. Because of this, subjective testimonies fail to capture Kane’s identity’s complexity. This leads to the conclusion that man’s inherent obscurity and subjectivity hinders truth-seeking.
Welles’ criticism of yellow journalism reinforces the argument that an absolute truth about human experience cannot be sustained in a subjective world. Kane’s inexorable success is evident throughout the film. Welles calls this “an attack on the acquisitive community” and examines the nature of Kane the archetype of ‘American dreams’. The ability to manipulate the truth is often equated to dictatorial power. Kane’s “empire on an empire” is glorified in The Inquirer, with low angles shots that emphasize his dominance of societal consensus and “spoke to millions of Americans”. Welles’ critique of society’s obsession in power is reflected in a dark/light symbol that unites a number of filmic techniques. This symbolises how the nature human experience can only be understood through the effort for truth and control.
This idea is reinforced by lighting and visual metaphor in Kane’s Declaration of Principles scene. Kane’s face in shadow is used to emphasize the irony of Kane’s ambition to ‘enlighten’ his readers with truth. This symbolism points out Kane’s inability fulfill his goal of allowing “no particular interests to interfere with truth”, and shows through yellow journalism how subjectivity hinders the persistence of truth. Susan’s Opera shows Welles’ portrayal of the negative impact society’s “acquisitive cultural” on the truthfulness of human experience. In Susan’s Opera, dark lighting combined with low-angle, close-up shots creates an ominous ambiguity in Kane’s inner thought because of his lack of emotion and hubris. Welles critique of yellow journalism is a reminder that truth cannot be sustained in a corrupted and subjective world.
Orson Welse encourages the audience’s perceptions of truth through the mystification of Kane’s personal life. But, Welles keeps the film ambiguous in order to point out that there are no definitive interpretations for human experience. The film’s core mystery revolves around the significance ‘rosebud,’ which encourages the audience’s inquiry into Kane through Thompson’s investigation. This is where Thompson’s minimalistic, opaque presence is most evident. He is supported by low-lighting and a lack thereof with close-up shots, which suggests that he is more of an audience member than a fully developed character. This audience positioning enhances the film’s unifying theme about man’s inherent obscurity, and our inability to find the truth about the human experience.
Thomson’s declaration that “I don’t believe any word is able to explain a person’s life” was preceded by the audience’s anti-climactic discovery, in an obscure close-up of Kane’s sled, of rosebud’s true significance. The globe motif is more than just a symbol for ‘rosebud’. Welles’ maxim on man’s complexity best describes Welles. It unifies the film’s central representation of the innately limited and ambiguous natures of human experience. Robert Carringer claims that the globe represents “the psychic wholeness and the totality Kane as an force”, while the pivotal shattering symbol signifies, “the loss ‘Kaneness”, which indicates how Kane’s entire life is lost when he dies. The hallway symbolism of mirrors shows all the possible interpretations of Kane. However the implied message of Kane’s empty facial expression and ominous tone suggests that representation can’t correspond to reality. The film’s exploration of Kane’s personal life by Welles places the audience in the film, which reveals that attempts to understand the human experience can often be futile because of its complex and uncomprehensible nature.
Citizen Kane is therefore a reflection of perseverance, exploring the subjective interpretations and complexity of human experience. These areas of research highlight Welles’ main critique of humanity’s inability to maintain a universal truth about human life. This central concern is what makes Citizen Kane a film that becomes organic. Because of this, the film has a canonical status.