Citizen Kane (1941) is the first film to be co-written, directed, produced, and starred in by the same man: Orson Welles. It tells the fictional story of newspaper mogul Charles Foster Kane, with many similarities to the life and story of real-life media tycoon William Randolph Hearst. The film begins eerily by showing the gates of Kane's palace Xanadu, cloaked in fog and accompanied by foreboding music. From there, the viewer sees an old man laying in his deathbed. He whispers the word rosebud as he passes away, and a snow globe slips from his fingers and shatters on the floor.
After Kane's death, the film goes on to show a newsreel about his life. The information in the newsreel is not enough to the editor though, he wants information about the man that C.F. Kane was, and he wants to know who or what rosebud is. He sends an eager reporter, Jerry Thompson, to interview people from Kane's life in an effort to find out more about the mystery of Kane and rosebud. Over the course of the film Thompson gains insight on Kane from five sources. He first attempts to interview Kane's second wife, Susan Alexander, but she refuses to see him, so he moves on.
[...] Second, the controversy around the story of Citizen Kane also led to much publicity for the film, most likely having at least some contributing factor to its current status. William Randolph Hearst fought hard to prevent the film from being released, and he was unsuccessful, but Welles was still met with much opposition as a result of the fight. As much as he tried to deny that the film was not based on Hearst, it is obvious that it was. [...]
[...] Jed Leland was also present when Kane created his “Declaration of Principles”, and he is the next person that Thompson goes to see. Leland's memories of Kane are not quite as fond as Bernstein's, but they offer Thompson insight nonetheless. Thompson then successfully attempts to speak to Susan Alexander a second time. She talks of her life with Kane, but like all of the previous interviewees, cannot tell Thompson the meaning of rosebud. Running out of people to speak with, Thompson turns to Kane's butler at Xanadu, Raymond. [...]
[...] The first flashback, where Kane is a young boy, is one of the most pivotal scenes in the movie. It is the only scene where the viewer gets a true idea of Kane's childhood and upbringing, which ends up being of importance by the end of the film. In this scene you can see many techniques that Welles uses very effectively, including lighting, contrast, deep-focus photography, and mise en scene. Even if they are not looking for these things, the viewer sees Kane playing outside with his sled through the entire scene. [...]
[...] Throughout the entire film Kane appears to be isolated and alone for much of it, even when he is surrounded by people. The isolation is often of his own doing because he alienates and manipulates people, and tries to make them do as he wishes without doing anything in return. Welles uses a variety of techniques to communicate this isolation, from portraying Kane as a mysterious person that no one knows personally, too often cutting the faces of people around Kane to emphasize his isolation even amongst people. [...]
[...] The scene that begins to show the decline of Kane and Susan's relationship follows Susan's opera debut and Leland's poor review of her performance. This scene is particularly important because of Kane's attempt to make himself look like a truthful man by finishing the review that Leland started before passing out drunk. It does not have that effect on Leland, and he and Kane can no longer work together. Foreshadowed when Leland asked to keep Kane's “Declaration of Principles,” Leland sends Kane the document as a reminder of the man he once was, and who he could possibly still be. [...]
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