“Wealth is not everything” _ citizen Kane(1941)

  Citizen Kane (1941) is a film describing the life of the man ‘Kane’, the American newspapers publisher with enormous wealth and power. People might think that he had all because of his richness, but actually he had nothing. There is not family, friends, and love in his life. The film starts with the mystery […]

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Citizen Kane (1941)

is a film describing the life of the man ‘Kane’, the American newspapers publisher with enormous wealth and power. People might think that he had all because of his richness, but actually he had nothing. There is not family, friends, and love in his life. The film starts with the mystery of Kane’s dying word ‘Rosebud’ and the mystery is revealed by the research of a newsreel reporter. He examines Kane’s past including his childhood and the people around him to solve the mystery.

The story gives us what real life means through Kane’s lonely life and that is the most important message of the film. We miss the fact that wealth is nothing at all and we can find out the meaning of real life from childhood when we do not really care the money. It is hard to say a word the meaning but it may be ‘Human relations’.


One of the most impressive scenes is the meeting with the reporter and Kane’s second wife ‘Susan’ at her opera house. The scene contains a symbolic meaning of the imperfect relationship between Kane and others, and also explains what the each character’s role in the whole film.

In the first shot of this scene camera is zoom-in the neon sign of Susan’s opera house, the sign is blinked and covered with the rain and thunderbolt. The blinked neon sign is also one of the hints of Kane’s imperfect relations. Then the camera is moved to the roof window and shows Susan though the broken roof. The director uses long take shot and high to below angle here because it means we are going into his life deeply. The shot also gives the information about the broken relationship between Susan and Kane to introduce Susan though the broken roof.

The reporter asks Susan about Kane and in a drunken state she refuses to tell him anything and drives the reporter out of her opera house. In this point, we can see Susan’s face but can’t see clearly the reporter’s and the waiter’s. Also, the camera shows the reporter’s silhouette out of the door, the waiter to the small window of the closed door, and downed Susan to the main window. It is related to the character’s role to an important degree. We only see the reporter’s back because he has the role of researcher or observer and the waiter is not important one.


Kane’s childhood scene explains how to start Kane’s lonely life because of the money. Child-Kane plays alone outside and his parent make the decision to send him to the banker inside the house.

It starts with the reporter is reading Kane’s autobiography. The camera moves from closed up the book to the right and then flash back to his childhood. At the beginning, the camera using long-shot for the boy in the snow and it is accentuated the boy in a wide field of white. Even he plays alone he seems to be happy near his parent.

After the boy throw a snow ball to hit a wooden sign “Mrs. Kane’s boarding house”, the camera moves into the house. It starts slightly from below to normal angle and moves to follow Kane’s mother with track shot. It stops the camera moving when the mother sits on chair. At that time, the medium shot contrasts the dark interior and the white snow field, also the shot is focused on both the people in the house and Kane out of the house. In other words, the whole view and the background are in focus, so it is clearly describing the depth of space, revealing Kane’s hidden solitude and depression.

Moreover, this over 2minutes long shot ends with the slid he played and it is covered with snow. The slid symbolizes Kane’s happiness with family is covered with ‘money’. The money can be the real money or human greed to make him has lack of human relations. 



 In the ending scene, we are becoming aware what the word ‘rosebud’ and the main point of this film. Kane possesses everything but nothing to have in his last moment. To possess wealth is not everything.

In the beginning of the scene the camera scans all his stuff with long-take shots with high angle and stops the slid that he played with in his childhood. A man throws out the slid in the fire and the slid is blazed with others belonged to Kane. The camera zooms in the slid and on the word ‘rosebud’ and then fade-out. The fire and all stuff in the room make deep focus.

After that, the camera fades in to the Kane’s house and tilts up to the black smog and dissolves the smog to wire entanglements and tilts down to the sign ‘NO, TRESPASSING’.

By examining the black smog shot, we can see Kane’s lonely last moment. It contains all the message of the film that everything can disappear as the smog so money is not all of our life.

Kane who craves wealth and success for whole life is eager ‘the slid’ at his last moment and it means what Kane wants is not ‘the great things’ and just ‘the things’ same as others.


Like the smog in the ending, the goal that we wish to achieve may be superficial. Kane may have needed a person whom he loved and loved him not just his wealthy achievements. These scenes make us think again the most important thing in our life is ‘human relations’.

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