One of the many reasons Citizen Kane is considered the greatest film ever made is gentle and, often, subtle play between aesthetic and technicality. The picture above highlights what Welles and Toland went through to capture a pivotal scene in the film: Kane just loses the gubernatorial election, and to represent Kane’s fall from the top, a fallen giant, and the mythical confrontation between Kane and Leland, Welles/Toland dug a trench for the camera to get the lowest camera angle they could. Looking up to the characters, via these low angles, is spread throughout the film (another important scene is the “Merry Christmas/Happy New Year” time transition represented by changing angles - again, mixing aesthetic with technicality).
The cinematic techniques used to film Kane - from nondiegetic sound to low camera angles to the use of deep focus - revolutionized how filmmakers can create (and manipulate) a mise-en-scene. The storytelling techniques - from bouncing between time periods (the film is one giant flashback) to multiple narrators to brilliant use of the montage - provide a compelling narrative. Mix these techniques together and the result is genius.