This pack contains a photocopiable Student's Guide and a Teacher's Commentary

In the Student's Guide the film is segmented into units of 10-15 minutes duration. This facilitates work in the normal class period. There is a series of questions for each sequence that guides the viewing of the students and encourage them to keep a personal Response Journal.

The Teacher's Commentary is a well researched separate booklet which covers issues raised in the guide.

Each pack is priced @ € 40.00, postage free. Titles are shipped on receipt of payment. Delivery is by Standard Post: next-day delivery in Ireland, and 2-10 days for international orders.

Extract from Teacher's Commentary​


(DVD Chapters 1/2/... 3: 6 mins)
Let the film roll until the newsreel announcer says “The Colorado Lode”

A deep brooding musical theme opens the soundtrack of Citizen Kane and sets an ominous tone. The visual track fades in almost immediately as a No Trespassing sign appears attached to a heavy wire fence. The camera begins to crane upwards, as if ignoring the notice and the barrier. As it climbs higher the image of the wire fence dissolves to another, then to a metallic floral design that looks like a gate and finally to a wrought iron design. The initial K can be seen in a circle as a huge palatial structure fades into view on the top right of the screen.

The next dissolve shows a pair of monkeys sitting on a metal railing in the left foreground. Another wrought iron gate can be seen in the right middleground. The huge building can, once again, be seen through the murk in the background. (It will occupy the same place in the composition for all the succeeding shots in this introductory montage of dissolves.) One large window appears to be lit up. A pair of gondolas float on still water and the building can be seen in reflection in the top right of the frame. A raised drawbridge increases the sense of the estate’s isolation by suggesting that the water is actually a moat and echoes back to the opening No Trespassing sign. Next there is a shot of the tee for the sixteenth hole of a, presumably private, golf course on the estate. We can also see a pair of ragged flagsticks. The musical theme, the murk, the hazy mist and the series of images give the sense of a rundown estate that may once have been exotic in the extreme. The next two dissolves bring us nearer to the building, the emphasis all the time on the lit window. The music rises in intensity and suddenly stops as the light, which has been the common element of all the recent images in this montage, goes out. The camera has, as it were, disregarded the No Trespassing sign and the editing has brought us gradually closer to the building that has been cut off from the world. This has introduced a major theme in the film: the invasion of privacy.

When the music resumes the camera set-up has changed and we realise that this is the first interior shot of the narrative. The musical theme has also changed. A figure lies stretched out on a bed in front of the window, now lit from the outside. The lattice design on the window recalls the wire fence and reinforces the notion of the invasion of privacy that is being carried out by the prying camera. Double exposure presents a heavy snowfall over the image of the window and then a dissolve shows a cottage covered in snow. As the snow continues to blow across the composition the camera pulls backs quickly and we realise that what looked like a rustic scene is, in fact, the interior of a snowglobe that rests in a man’s open, unsteady hand. The theme of appearance and reality is introduced here. There is a cut to a big close-up of a man’s mouth and he speaks the word “Rosebud”. Then the snowglobe falls from his hand and smashes at the foot of the bed. The falling snow has been the common feature of the last five shots.

We have witnessed the demise of a man whose last breath was used to pronounce the word “Rosebud”. We might take the scenes united by the falling snow as his last thoughts: thoughts that went back to a rustic world and a small snow-covered cottage. That world has been shattered now. The broken snowglobe lies at the foot of the bed. The tiny cottage rests on its side. Reflected in the shattered glass we can see a nurse rushing in to tend to the man, whose open hand can be seen in the upper middleground of the frame. In the background we can see the window that has drawn the camera, and us, through the murky exterior to trespass on this most private of moments. (This deep focus camerawork that presents foreground, middleground and background with equal clarity will become a major stylistic feature of the film.) The nurse crosses the man’s arms over his chest and covers his face with his bedclothes, a cinematic cliché for death. There is a reprise of the shot of the body lying before the window which acts as a bracket to bookend the action of this scene. (This is a feature of the director’s editing style that will be repeated many times as the film progresses.) The music fades and then stops, giving finality to the scene.

So far the action has been presented to us through third person omniscient point of view. This is the general way in classic Hollywood narrative: the camera stands outside the action looking in at it, as it were. The camera has brought us over the barriers that cut a man off from the world and we have been given an insight into his last thoughts.

The brash strains of trumpets announce the end of the Prologue and introduce a newsreel film that parodies a feature of the cinematic experience of cinemagoers in the last century, before the age of television. Newsreels brought pictures of foreign lands and current events to audiences around the world. The first caption of this newsreel announces the start of an obituary to the landlord of Xanadu. We immediately connect this back to the images of the opening sequence. This is a story within a story, the first of six in the course of the narrative. The romantic music that plays over the first shots of the dead man’s estate and the caption taken from Tennyson have been arranged by the director of the newsreel. So the opening point of view has shifted. (This will become a major feature of the narrative structure and style of this film that will greatly influence the mise en scène and explain changes in the tone and treatment of characters and events as the film progresses.) Kane is being presented to us as an almost mythological figure on a par with characters from epic poetry, ancient history and the Bible. In fact, he is presented as surpassing them, as the pompous voice-over says Kubla Khan’s Xanadu was almost as legendary as Florida’s! When Charles Foster Kane’s “private pleasuredrome” and “private mountain” are mentioned, the audience might recall the image that opened the film. One hundred thousand trees and twenty thousand tons of marble went into the creation of this mountain.

The contents of the pleasuredrome consisted of paintings, pictures, statues and the very stones of many another palace. The images in the newsreel are joined by wipes, as each pushes the previous one off the screen from left to right. The last term used for the contents is “the loot of the world.” This is a loaded word and gives an indication of the editorial tone of the newsreel, which is cataloguing Kane’s achievements but doing so in an ironic way. The list of the animals Kane acquired builds to a crescendo using quasi-Biblical terms that culminate in the mention of Noah. Then the Pharaohs and the Pyramids are mentioned. Increasingly lower bass notes accompany the narrator’s summation of Kane’s building achievements: “The most expensive monument a man has built to himself.” The counterpoint between the references made in the narration and the mise en scène establishes the tone as mock-heroic.

The newsreel music segues into a funeral march and the caption refers to “... 1941’s biggest, strangest funeral”. Newsreel footage shows men doffing their hats out of respect as Kane’s coffin is carried from a chapel. This opening sequence of the newsreel’s story is rounded off with another reference to Kubla Khan.

The front page of the New York Inquirer is featured then. It is entirely devoted to Kane. It shows a bright photograph of an avuncular, jovial man surrounded by flattering copy. The Daily Chronicle front page is shown next and the accompanying photograph presents Kane dressed in a black coat and hat. While his death gets the headline and a major photograph, there is only one article devoted to the event. This contradictory treatment is reprised in themontage of international front pages that follows as Kane is referred to as a Fascist in one and a sponsor of democracy in another.

The next caption introduces a segment on Kane’s publishing career. Accompanied by a loud fanfare, it announces in glowing terms the size of his readership and declares him the greatest publisher of all time. It adds that he was himself never out of the headlines. A van bearing the name of the Inquirer passes by the ramshackle building in which Kane started his media career. Hearkening back to earlier references to Kubla Khan and the Pharaohs, the narrator refers repeatedly to Kane’s empire. We are told that he built up a commercial empire of grocery stores, paper mills, apartment buildings, factories, forests and ocean liners using money garnered from the world’s third richest gold-mine in Colorado. The newsreel then shows a photograph of Mary Kane and her son. She clasps his hand in hers and gazes on him intently. They are both well dressed and at ease in each other’s company. Other family photographs of the time might have shown the father standing proudly with puffed chest and a hand in his waistcoat pocket. The fact that this is not the case here might suggest a lack. The information that Mary Kane ran a boarding house might come as a surprise, having seen her proud demeanour in the photographic portrait. A painting of “The Home of Charles Foster Kane, Near Salem” shows the humble boarding house. In 1868 a boarder who had been staying there could not pay his rent and gave Mrs Kane the deeds to his abandoned mineshaft instead.  

Extract from Student's Guide: 


Read the following questions and then let the film roll until the newsreel announcer says “The Colorado Lode”

Describe the music that opens this film. Make a list of the images in this montage. What impression do you form of the grounds surrounding the mansion on the hill? What elements in the mise en scéne brought you to these conclusions. Is there any recurring feature in this montage? When does the music stop? Summarise the camera movement and editing up to this. How might it fit with the notice at the start of the film?

Describe the composition as the music starts up again. Has any change come over it? Describe the camerawork. Describe the transition to the next image. What did you think was presented in the snow scene? What is on the screen, in fact? What is the first word of dialogue in the film? What feature have the last five shots in common?

Freeze the frame after the glass breaks and describe it in detail. Can you suggest what is happening in the narrative? How does the scene end? How has the director used this image? Does anything add to the sense of finality in this shot?

In two short sentences summarise what has happened in the plot so far. Can you suggest a symbolic reading for the snowglobe and what has happened to it? Can you suggest a symbolic reading for the camerawork in these scenes?

Do you recognise the reference to Xanadu and Kubla Khan in this newsreel. What image appears as the narrator says “... a private mountain was commissioned”? Might this connect to anything else that has appeared in the film up to this?

What are the contents of Kane’s mansion? What is the last thing the narrator says about them? What is the last thing he says about the livestock? Is there a pattern in the way he is referring to Kane? In what year did Kane die? How does the narrator refer to him at this point? How does this unify the first section of the newsreel?

What is the name of the first newspaper that appears on the screen? What impression of Kane is given by the photograph? What is the tone of the headlines? Name the second newspaper that appears. How do these headlines and photograph compare with those of the Inquirer? Can you draw any conclusions from the way Kane is treated in each publication? Is this pattern repeated in the front pages that follow?