This 48-page book is printed in-house and contains a detailed semiological commentary prepared with the general reader, students and teachers in mind. 

For those who would like to use it as a teaching and learning aid in a classroom situation the film has been segmented into twelve sequences of 10 to 15 minutes duration.


(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 snow globe 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 the montage 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.