Citizen Kane Review

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: August 07, 2017

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Submitted: August 07, 2017



















 Citizen Kane is a 1941 drama directed by Orson Welles and influenced by some aspects of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst’s life, detailing the rise and fall of a powerful man as his obsession with being the one on top leads him to break ties with friends and loved ones. After his death, a news reporter investigates the mystery behind his last word: Rosebud.

 First and foremost, I do not wish to discuss the making of the film, nor the controversies surrounding Hearst or the feud between Welles and Mickiewicz, who each claims to be the rightful screenwriter of the film. I don’t want to write about how a 25 year old kid assembled his stage company and was given carte blanche in his film debut with all resources and money given to him for free without a struggle, creating a film that defied all expectations and boundaries in its time. I wouldn’t write about how it was rated as the greatest film of all time for decades until it was dethroned by Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

 I would kindly ask my reader to know that I will simply review the film on its own merits, and if one is interested in its history, they may read more elaborate articles.

 Writer Jorge Borges, who was not infatuated with the film but liked it enough to give it a mixed reaction, described it as a “labyrinth with no center.” He was right, for while the film offers an answer in Rosebud, it does not truly offer the meaning. One can assume that it might be alluded to Kane’s mother, but can one, especially Kane, long all these times for a reunion with his mother, who pretty much sold him? Perhaps to some, it could be, but I just can’t see it in a man who simply fires his best friend in a fashion that would be described as the greatest stab in the back in history. Perhaps, at that moment, on his deathbed, Kane experienced an epiphany? Who knows?

 As a matter of fact, it is not helped by what literature would label an unreliable narrator, or in this case, narrators. Since Kane is dead from the beginning, we only have accounts of survivors. There is the News on the March, which sees Kane the politician; Thatcher’s memoir, which views a cocky liberal going against the system and destroying it; Bernstein, who is praiseful of the young and energetic Kane who reportedly set out on a path to help the working man and fight injustice; Leland, the aging, cynical “best friend” with a slipping memory who shows the façade behind a hypocrite who disguised his commands as rousing speeches and who was an unfaithful husband and father arrogant enough to not even bother with their deaths; Susan, a drunk who is somewhere in the middle, who highlights a mentally abusive husband that didn’t know how to see the difference between pride and love; finally, there is Raymond, Kane’s butler and the one who sees Kane as a tragic soul who seems to accept his tragic fate. Much like the reporter Thomson, we never meet the actual man in the flesh, aside from that scene in the beginning, where he is pretty much a goner. Even Xanadu, his place of residence, has a different outlook depending on who’s talking. Either it is a gigantic landmark that rivals the pyramids, or a desolate gothic mansion. It’s no wonder why we never have an answer for Rosebud, because we don’t even know the man whom it ties to.

 With that said, why is this film still elevated? Perhaps because of the technical achievements, perhaps because of the solid acting, perhaps because of the sensual visual of the film, perhaps because the mystery is unlike others. Personally, I believe the reason it stayed with people is because of two things.

 First of all, shower of praise aside, it is a genuinely great film. There is dimension in the characters, there is a sense of claustrophobia in Xanadu just as there is a sense of joy in the party sequence. We are not given an answer, but we are allowed to suggest for ourselves who Kane was and what that word meant, much like how in a labyrinth, there is a center amidst the confusion. It is easy to label it as a drama, but it is also a Film Noir, a mystery, a tragedy, a psychological piece, and even a horror story.

 Secondly, I believe it is also analyzes the nature of film. After all, film is a form of art. It does not offer advice on life, because the characters don’t even exist, but simply have form of the performer. Xanadu is not an actual house, but a stage. Kane, both the film and the character, embody that notion, and that for me is why this film has captured the hearts of filmmakers, aside from Ingmar Bergman, that is.

 In the end, one should never see Citizen Kane out of a sense of duty. Don’t think about its reputation, or of its director, that entity known as Orson Welles. Try to know Charles Foster Kane, and whether Xanadu is the right place to look through. Even if you couldn’t find an answer, then at least you tried. I still haven’t found an answer, and I’m still trying.

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