classic film

Five-star cinema: The many lives of Orson Welles’s ‘Mr Arkadin’

There are at least six versions of the legendary American director’s beguiling exploration of identity and self-deception.

What is an Orson Welles movie? The one that the multi-talented American filmmaker intended, the mutilated version put out for release by meddling studio executives, or the post-demise reconstruction by collaborators and admirers based on his original screenplay?

The career of the actor, director, writer, playwright and radio show producer, which spanned over six decades, was marked by frequent battles for creative control with Hollywood studios. The influence of Welles’s filmmaking exceeds its actual output – only 13 completed films and scores of unfinished projects, some of which are now the subject of a copyright battle between his daughters from the last of his three marriages and his lover at the time of his death in 1985. The irrepressible Welles would have seen the humour and cinematic potential in the situation.

After an acclaimed run on the stage and radio, Welles exploded on the filmmaking scene with Citizen Kane (1941), a fictionalised account of American publishing baron William Randolph Hearst and an early exploration of the mechanics of myth-making. A series of films followed, which were marked by studio interference, budget overruns and off-screen turmoil caused by the mercurial and prodigious filmmaker’s entanglements with various women (including Rita Hayworth). The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), Lady From Shanghai (1947) and Touch of Evil (1958) are among the most oft-quoted movies in the history of cinema, even though the final edits did not adhere to Welles’s original vision.

The funhouse mirror sequence from ‘Lady From Shanghai’.

The three iterations of Touch of Evil (including a 1998 version re-cut according to Welles’s legendary memo to the production studio that details the preferred editing pattern) pale in comparison to the number of times Mr Arkadin (1955) has been chopped and changed. There are at least six edits of the movie in different languages, each one slightly or significantly different depending on which party had its hands on the material. Released in Europe as Confidential Report, the movie’s main theme of the fluidity of identity makes it a fascinating summary of Welles’s career. Will the real Gregory Arkadin please stand up? The question can also be posed to the vastly documented but ultimately elusive filmmaker, who plays Arkadin.

The trailer of ‘Mr Arkadin’ aka ‘Confidential Report’.

The fabulously produced Criterion Collection DVD includes the Corinth version, named after the distribution company, Confidential Report, and the DVD label’s own edit based on the inputs of filmmaker and Welles scholar Peter Bogdanovich. The opening sequence itself reveals how the same movie can have a different effect depending on who has the keys to the editing room.

In the Corinth version, a prologue reveals an empty plane cutting through the clouds and its missing passenger, a mysterious and wealthy supervillain with the power to topple governments. The credits list the cast of characters before cutting to a typically Wellesian deep focus sequence in which the protagonist, Guy Van Stratten (Robert Arden), walks through a gate into a building. As Guy hurries up a flight of stairs to meet Jakob Zouk (Akim Tamiroff), the latest link in a long chain of people who provide clues to Arkadin’s past, Jean Bourgoin’s camera pulls backwards and drowns Guy’s ascent in darkness, creating an indelible image of the moral void into which the fortune hunter will find himself. The first post-credits image is another Wellesian trademark, a close-up of Zouk’s face.

The credits sequence of the Corinth version of ‘Mr Arkadin’.
The credits sequence of the Corinth version of ‘Mr Arkadin’.

In Confidential Report, the sequence plays more conventionally and after the credits have rolled. The lengthier Criterion cut retains the opening image Welles originally intended, of a woman’s corpse on a beach.

The plot treatment perhaps lends itself to such reinvention. Mr Arkadin, like so many Welles titles, remains a stubbornly alive work, forever open to re-interpretation and debates on the real meaning of a “director’s cut”.

Guy stumbles upon the Arkadin legend by accident, via a stunningly shot murder in the shadows of the docks. As the murder victim breathes his last, he lets out two names: Gregory Arkadin and Sophie.

A murder in the shadows.
A murder in the shadows.

Guy sets out to grab a slice of Arkadin’s wealth by wooing his beloved daughter Raina (Paola Mori, Welles’s third wife), but the omnipresent Arkadin is always one step ahead. Arkadin claims to have no memory of his life before 1927, and he hires Guy to retrace his steps. Guy’s journey takes him across continents and results in strange encounters with bizarre characters, including Michael Redgrave’s telescope seller and Suzanne Flon’s Sophie, who knew Arkadin when he was a small-time criminal.

Robert Arden as Guy Van Stratten.
Robert Arden as Guy Van Stratten.

Is Arkadin using Guy to reveal his past or erase it? One of Mr Arkadin’s themes is the impossibility of reaching a single, unassailable version of truth, seen in the recurring use of masks and eyepieces (a magnifying glass, a telescope).

Welles’s unorthodox approach includes several stylistic elements which, American critic Jonathan Rosenbaum notes on the DVD commentary, predates the French New Wave’s tendency to rework genre elements. A political thriller, a noir, a philosophical inquiry into identity and self-deception, and a satire on the ability of cinema to mistake myth for fact, Mr Arkadin remains a baffling and beguiling work.

Welles quoted himself from Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons and The Third Man (directed by Carol Reed in 1949) in several sequences. Using his considerable bulk and rumbling voice to tremendous effect, Welles looms large over the movie, especially in the sequence in which he presents Guy with a dossier on him. A classic example of the deep focus cinematography that characterised Welles’s films, the scene also sets up the odd triangle between father, daughter and lover that provides a motive of sorts to Arkadin’s malevolent actions.

The know-it-all Mr Arkadin.
The know-it-all Mr Arkadin.

The canted camera angles, off-kilter characters straight out of a fairground, the use of background music, close-ups and production design elements aimed at throwing viewers off balance, and the fundamentally unsettling character of Gregory Arkadin add up to a memorable experience, but what exactly is it? Like so much of Welles’s work, it depends on which version you are watching.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.


As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.


So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.


As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”


By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.