Hello and welcome to my Citizen Kane review and analysis. In order to make it easier for you to read this review, I have decided to write it up in bullet point form. Spoiler Alert if you haven't seen the movie, so do that first, then come back. It'll also be difficult for you to understand what I'm talking about if you haven't seen it. Enjoy!
Citizen Kane uses many movie making techniques, more common in modern films than films of the time, to tell its story. For example:
Use of non-linear storytelling to grip the audience is used to tell the story of the main character - although it’s done through perspectives of many DIFFERENT people which is not a common artistic choice even in modern cinema. So Citizen Kane is way ahead of us on this one.
Creative use of transitions like dissolves, wipes etc.
At the start, the story is told using a News Channel style documentary to deliver exposition.
Use of flashbacks.
Audio and visual match-cuts.
We don’t meet Kane first hand. We only get to know him after he has died through the News Channel when his life story being recounted to us.
A lot of interesting, unusual and indirect shots (e.g. people reflected in glass).
Replaying the same scenes from different perspectives (e.g. the recap of his life at the start tells us about him getting married to Susan (the ‘singer’) then we actually experience the event again and find out what led up to it later in the movie).
Unusual style of credits
Citizen Kane is often regarded as the “first modern film.” I think this is why:
Many films back then were very intimate with only small worlds while with this film, right from the start, we see it will take place on a global playing field (maybe since that’s how newspapers work).
It is incredibly efficient and creative when it comes to delivering expository information to the audience. (E.g. it sets up conflict between Kane and Mr Thatcher by showing him get mad at the newspaper multiple times in one scene) or (the montage that shows Kane and his wife growing apart with the passage of time) or (when they used different overlaid images to tell us something like when they showed Mrs Kane singing along with newspaper pages). A great example of visual story telling.
My own thoughts:
The witty dialogue in this film is remarkable. If you are an aspiring screenwriter such as myself, I would definitely recommend reading the script for this movie which you can check out here: https://www.scriptslug.com/script/citizen-kane-1941. (I hope you like the green link).
I think the scene in the lunchroom scene with the band and the ladies inspired the scene from The Wolf of Wall Street where they had the party at work. In other words, this movie inspired creatively Martin Scorsese, and I'm sure he wasn't the only one.
Orson Welles not only directed the movie but also produced it, co-wrote the screenplay and portrayed the title character. He must have been an incredibly talented man to have been able to play all these key roles in the production of the film and still have made a movie that is considered by many to be the greatest film ever made.
The movie has a great message. Kane was a man who had everything but he wanted none of it, all he ever wanted was to go back to the time when he was a boy. This is symbolised by his final words: "Rose Bud" and the revelation that those were the words on his childhood sleds. Even though at the end we learn that a man's life can never be summarised in a word. Nevertheless, this reveal at the end (the meaning of Rose Bud) is what subtextually finally reveals Kane's real dream in life; the one of him playing in his childhood. A rare case of ambiguous story telling. I wish films did that more nowadays.
If you like this film, watch these by Orson Welles as director:
TOUCH OF EVIL (1958)
THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942)
CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (1965)
F FOR FAKE (1973)
THE TRIAL (1962)
THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1947)
MR. ARKADIN (1955)
THE IMMORTAL STORY (1968)
THE STRANGER (1946)
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (2018)