Citizen Kane Shot by Shot Film Analysis

The article entitle as Citizen Kane shot by shot film analysis. because this write up is likewise a film review. I hope you will enjoy the reading and my insightful observation.


It is a dialogue of one of the most famous films in the history of cinema. The real film lovers know the film name as soon as they see the word Rosebud. The film is ‘Citizen Kane’- the masterpiece of Orson Welles.

Rosebud is not just a dialogue. It’s something bigger than that. The essence of the whole film hides inside this word.

A Masterpiece: Citizen Kane Shot by Shot Film Analysis

Let’s go we try to say something about Citizen Kane shot by shot film analysis. Hope you will love my analysis as I am talking from my soul.

More than 75 years passed since the film released. In the meantime, hundreds of masterpieces released but critics of now-a-days still enjoy the 1941 black and white film. Many directors still follow the pattern of making of this film which was the first film of a 26 year’s old inexperienced young director!

Orson Wells was simultaneously the film’s producer, co-cinematographer, director and lead star. The first premiere of this American drama film was held on May 1, 1941 at the Palace Theater in New York.

Some movies are immortal for their unique storytelling. In some cases the characters get a place in the pages of history by impressive performance. Sometimes the film making technique and management immortalize it. But when all the mixture poured into one container, a masterpiece like Citizen Kane will come out. Let’s take a look at the brief plot of this masterpiece.


The story of the movie revolves around the life and work of a character named Charles Foster Kane. Kane began his career in the publishing business out of a sense of responsibility towards society and ideology, but gradually he began to work only for the sake of power. Kane was the publisher of 11 newspapers. He married twice. He first married the niece of the President of the United States in order to gain power.

After divorcing his first wife, he married an opera singer. He then tried to establish his wife as a star in all his publications. This forced attempt made his wife a funny object to everyone. The stubborn, dominant Kane’s second marriage also did not last.

Kane’s money and power did not make him happy because he lost idealism in his life. Just before his death, Kane uttered the word “rosebud.” Then a journalist tries to find out the reason for pronouncing this last word. The plot progresses through the research of this news reporter and most of the scenes showed multiple narrators and use of flashbacks.

Cinematography: Shot by Shot Explanation

“In the last decade I watched this first feature many times, and each time, it reveals new treasures. Clearly, no single film is the greatest ever made. But if there were one, for me Kane would now be the strongest contender, bar none” —Geoff Andrew

“All celluloid life is present in Citizen Kane; seeing it for the first or umpteenth time remains a revelation” —Trevor Johnston

“Citizen Kane and Vertigo don’t top the chart by divine right. But those two films are just still the best at doing what great cinema ought to do: extending the everyday into the visionary” —Nigel Andrews

These quotations clearly indicate that Citizen Kane’s cinematography and way of storytelling was exceptional as well as extraordinary. Many film critics described Citizen Kane as the perfect combination of visual storytelling. The plot of the film, the use of multiple narrators, the different styles of framing, the composition, the wonderful use of sound and music, the art direction and the brilliant editing make the film multidimensional.

2 Important Point of Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane is logically the most important film for two specific reasons.

i) It consolidated the language of the film until 1941 and use of deep focus.

2) Contemporary critics agree that Citizen Kane is technically the best movie in Hollywood, using a lot of aesthetic style that has never been seen before.

Orson Welles used deep focus lenses in every single scene of the film so that all the materials of a scene are captured in one frame. Almost every shot including foreground and background of the film captured in sharp focus. This was possible for the creative cinematographer Greg Toland. His varied lenses and use of light give the film a different dimension. The camera angle was also great.

Shot by Shot Analysis on Citizen Kane

Below are some notable camera angles and details of the composition shot by shot:

1. Identity of Creativity and Intelligence

The identity of creativity and intelligence in the shots were there from the first sequence of Citizen Kane. A trespass board, then a blank cutter without a trespass board, and finally a picture of the main gate of the castle. The presentation of Kane’s Janadu castle presented through dissolve. From long shots of Janadu reflection in the water the camera enters the castle with a few mid shots and close shots. Each shots slowly bring the viewer closer to Janadu. Simple and elegant light source is noticeable in the frame. What a wonderful way to introduce with the audience with Kane’s last residence.

2. The Meaningful Extreme Close Shot

One of the most famous extreme close shots in film history is the Rosebud shot, a word uttered from Ken’s lips with a mustache. This is an important word that puts mystery at the heart of the story. The whole film focuses the viewer’s attention until the last scene to reveal this mystery. Snowflex’s rotation, falling from Kane’s hand after uttering the word Rosebud and then the POV shot of entering the nurse from broken snowflex- all these shots create a kind of psychological curiosity among the audience. The whole sequence was a metaphorical presentation of distorted reality and end result of nostalgic Kane’s life.

3. Foreground and Background Focus

The scene set with Kane’s mother, Mary, in the middle. Citizen Kane, on the other hand, does not focus entirely on a particular character in a scene. To break the conventional rules by focusing the background along with foreground was a very first practice of that era which Citizen Kane film did tremendously.

4. Creative Camera Movement

The creative camera movement can help the viewer to go deeper into each and every scene of the film. This practice became universal through the Citizen Kane film. For example, imagine the scene of Kane’s childhood life. Kane’s mother, father and thatcher were visible in the frame also focusing the playing kid Kane with the snow outside the window. Welles invented two things in the part where Kane’s mother moved away from the window and sat in the chair next to the table. The first is to make everything on the movie set look completely realistic. To do this, he used a special table that was able to move in half from the middle and reassemble. As a result, the table did not cause any obstruction when the camera was pulled back and the table looked right when the camera was immovable. The use of deep focus in the foreground and background in this sequence was truly admirable.

5. Shot as a metaphor

There was a mid shot where Kane and his 1st wife were talking to each other face to face maintaining a long distance. Through the mid-shot, distance between the husband-wife was depicted. This sequence ends with a dolly shot. The space distance between them highlighted as a metaphor as faded relationship.

6. That Low Dutch Angle

In favor of winning the election as governor, Kane made a storm of campaign speeches. In this sequence, Welles used a low angle dutch shot. This low angle shot magnifies the powerful Kane’s influence. Then there was a long shot which highlighted the full picture of the speech assembly and the importance of upcoming election.

7. Power of Low Angle Shot

Jim W. Gettys, Kane’s main political rival came to him and told his wife the story of Kane’s affair with singer Susan Alexander. He threatens Kane to withdraw from the election or else the story of the affair will spread to all newspapers. But the stubborn Kane informed his firm decision. After hearing this Jim went away. When he was coming down the stairs Kane started screaming out him and scolding him loudly. In this entire sequence there were some good mid shots, a low angle shot from the bottom of the stairs and a top angle view shot. The DOP captured all shots in this sequence beautifully to express the crisis of Kane’s first marital life and indicate the ruin of Kane’s political life.

8. Symbolic Shot

Can you remember that scene? When Charles Foster Kane heard reading the news of the confiscation of all his newspaper business. Then he started walking slowly towards the huge windows next to the fire place. At first the windows looked smaller than him but slowly they seemed to get bigger than him as if Kane’s body was shrinking gradually. This shot symbolizes Kane’s gradual losing control from all his business and getting powerless.

Final Words on Citizen Kane Shot by Shot Film Analysis

However, there were many artistic shots besides these in the entire film. Film critics elected Citizen Kane as the best film total five times. Site and Sound magazine’s film critics also voted for this film. The film gained praise many times for its innovative cinematography, wonderful use of music and narrative structure. The film became unforgettable not only for the artistic sides but also for its educative meaningful message.

After the release of this film, the strategy of making films changed a lot. It took another step towards becoming a film industry in the golden era of Hollywood. Orson Welles immortal creation ‘Citizen Kane’ affected also the legendary directors like François Truffaut, Martin Scorsese and Spielberg got influenced So what’s wrong with calling it the best movie of all time?