22/09/2013

Citizen Kane (1941)

Film: Citizen Kane
Release: 1941, Theatrical
Starring: Orson Welles, Dorothy Comingore, Joseph Cotten
Directed by: Orson Welles
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: An aging billionaires last word becomes the axis of an investigation into his life.

Hans' thoughts:

Citizen Kane, a movie heralded by many as the greatest achievement in cinema. Even today, people are talking about the movie as the best - giving films like The Room the subtitle "The Citizen Kane of Bad Movies". The film is a cautionary tale, Kane himself a man that has made himself into one of the wealthiest men in the world, living in a mansion called "The greatest monument to a single man since the pyramids". Curiously named Xanadu, a palace built from self-indulgence that would since be nothing but rubble. The name is most likely picked deliberately, as it mirrors the tale of Kane himself. The movie is certainly something else from most other films - loaded with symbolism to a degree that most would have to take repeated viewings to pick up on. The shots are also beautifully framed, using the banality of a doorframe to great effect several times in the film. 

All that set aside, I must admit that the film hasn't aged all that well. Character writing has come a long way in the years since then and I don't feel that most of them were all that redeeming. Perhaps this is because of the person I happen to be, growing up in a socialist family I probably don't appreciate the kind of mentality required for making this movie work. To me, this movie is about Rich people talking about other rich people and how they did some bad rich people stuff in their rich people lives. But honestly, there must be some core thing I'm not seeing here. The movie seems to attempt to convey the notion that some people would just be better off without certain advantages. For audiences, the big guessing game is what made Kane himself turn into a worse person. Whether it was his upbringing, his ambitions or those around him that turned him into what he is, is anyone's guess.

Interestingly, the movie is shown through the eyes of a young reporter. Walking from person to person asking about the life of Citizen Kane. This almost makes the movie into a casefile from a psychology class. While it may not have been the original intent I assure you that a man with such knowledge could find at least a couple of theories that fits with the life of Kane. Whether it's the historical references, the symbolic imagery or just plainly the well-written drama - Citizen Kane deserves recognition as one of the great movies, if not for all time then at least of the era. Made in a period just after the Great Depression and released in the second year of the second world war the movie gives us a time capsule of the zeitgeist of the years in which it was made and later released.

Acting wise the movie is great, Orson Welles himself playing Citizen Kane is the highlight of the movie. Managing to show the anger and overzealousness that the man contains. He blames his silver spoon for his personal shortcomings "You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn't been very rich, I might have been a really great man."  Other actors do a good job as well, in particular that of Everett Sloane playing Mr. Bernstein. Playing the character as a humble yet joking man - like all others his old age has made him wiser. The actresses on the picture, was unfortunately nothing spectacular. Perhaps held back by a script that made the characters they played very one-note.

No matter how it has aged, there is no doubt that if you love film: This is one to watch. Fundamentally changing what movies were all about while telling a dramatic story of a mans journey through greatness and fall through the eyes of his peers.
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