Charles Foster Kane repeatedly finds himself isolated from the world around him, whether he is young or old, happy or unhappy, alone or surrounded by others, which suggests that his final isolation is inevitable. The camerawork in Citizen Kane emphasizes this isolation. For example, we see Kane as a happy child playing alone in the snow, and a short time later, the camera isolates him between his mother and Mr. Thatcher as they plan to separate Kane from his home. He is still alone, but no longer happy. We next see Kane seated by himself in the center of a room ringed with dark-suited men, who watch him as he opens a gift from Thatcher. Kane’s isolation follows him into adulthood, where we see him sitting on his own in his newspaper office amid a celebration in his honor. The camera locates Kane in a triangular shot between Bernstein and Leland as the two men discuss Kane’s increasingly depraved tactics. The three men may be in physical proximity, but the nature of Bernstein and Leland's discussion and the way the shot frames Kane mark him as an outsider. Eventually Leland leaves Kane, and Kane barricades himself in his fortress with Susan. But Susan too leaves Kane, and in the end he dies alone, never having formed a lasting bond with anyone.
Because the story of Charles Foster Kane is told by his associates after his death, the primary storytellers are men who are far past their prime, and their degeneracy lends another layer of sadness and loneliness to the film. All of these men were once vital, active, and important. Now they’re bored, and society has shunted them aside. Bernstein, as chairman of the board, notes that he has nothing at all to do. Leland is in an old age home, stiff and somewhat senile. Thatcher, whose story comprises a significant source of material on Kane's life, is already dead by the time Thompson consults his memoirs. Even Kane himself, as he ages throughout the film, becomes devitalized and mechanical in his movements. His aging, ravaged state is painfully apparent in the scene where Susan leaves him and he tears up her room in anger. He moves stiffly and has difficulty venting his anger as violently as he wants to, which increases his frustration and isolates him even from his own feelings. Old age in Citizen Kane does not come with grace, but with defeat.
Charles Foster Kane is a rapacious collector. At one point, in a newspaper office so filled with statues that the employees can barely move around, Bernstein notes that they have multiple, duplicate statues of Venus (the goddess of physical beauty). Kane obsessively fills his estate with possessions, and at the end of the movie the camera pans across massive rooms filled with crates to show that he never even unpacked many of his purchases. Kane’s collecting is not that of a discriminating connoisseur—he buys art objects so fervently that his behavior more closely resembles the ravenous actions of a predator. After his disappointments in the political arena and with Susan’s opera career, Kane builds his estate, Xanadu, to isolate himself and Susan from those who spurned his attempts at manipulation, and he fills the castle with inanimate objects. He wields complete control over the world he’s created, and nothing can challenge his authority in this realm. Through his materialism Kane attempts to ameliorate the insults of the real world, where he couldn’t control his mother’s abandonment, Susan’s failed attempt at opera, the failure of his political career, and the souring opinions of his friends. He ends up at Xanadu alone, with his possessions as his only companions. By purchasing so many extravagant goods, Kane attempts to fill a void created by all the people who left him throughout his life. Yet the only two possessions that carry meaning for Kane on his deathbed are a simple snow globe and Rosebud, the sled he remembers from his youth.
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