Citizen Kane Movie Analysis
Among the many great films of the previous century, Citizen Kane is the one that stands out from the rest due to its original plot and talented acting and directing. It is a gripping story of a man of his epoch who rises and falls, and whose actions impact the society around him making a memorable tale of the period.
The movie was produced in 1941, with a budget a little more than $686 thousands. Due to controversies while releasing the movie, it lost money during the opening weekends, and it did not earn enough to cover the initial budget. Altogether, before 1991, the movie had a chance to make around $1.14 million in the US and less than $100 thousands in Europe (“Box office/business for Citizen Kane”, n.d.). Mercury Productions produced the film while RKO Radio Pictures distributed it. Orson Wells who starred and directed the movie also produced it. Gregg Tolland was responsible for the photography and the lighting of the movie, and the film was shot in various locations in the state of California and New York City. Perry Ferguson designed the set decorations, and Edward Stevenson designed the wardrobe. Bailey Fesler was responsible for the sound in the movie, and Russell A. Cully was responsible for visual effects.
In the movie, Orson Wells stars as the main character portraying Charles Foster Kane. Among other leads, there is Joseph Cotton and Dorothy Comingore. The movie has been well received by critics although it did not get as much publicity as it could. The thing was the fact that the movie’s main character appeared very similar to William Randolph Hearst, a famous media publisher. Since the latter disliked the similarity, he and his employees tried to sabotage the movie release, and that was the reason it did not attract as much audience as it could. In addition, despite warm reception of the critics, the contemporary viewers did not like or cherish the movie as much as it is regarded and praised now. As a result, the difficulties Orson Welles experienced with making and producing the movie caused further complications in his career. Although the movie is regarded as one of the greatest films of all times, it was not equally appreciated in 1940s.
The movie tells a story of Charles Kane from his early childhood to his death, and shows the various aspects of his life. The audience sees Kane as a poor and young child, with little prospects in life, who, however, is happy to live with his caring family. After his family discovers oil on their property, Charles gets better prospects in life since he can get a good education and his financial situation improves. After turning twenty five, he begins to control his financial assets to run a newspaper with scandalous leads and titles. The film shows how Kane sinks from an aspiring and romantic young man who wants to make a change into a distant and isolated individual who dominates others but is extremely lonely and unhappy. He is unfaithful in his first marriage, which causes a great damage to his career and possible political reputation. After marrying for the second time, he brings nothing but misery for the woman who loves him. As a result, she leaves him, and he is left alone. The movie shows a devastation and ruin of an individual who had amazing ambitions and opportunities but who did not remain true to his initial goals and lost himself in the process. As he dies, people try to discover many things about this charismatic individuality; however, all is lost since he did not live a full life he expected but became someone he did not want to be when he was young.
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The movie is very powerful due to the many themes it uncovers. It was praised by the critics and is popular with the audience because it focuses on personal issues and loss of an individual in the process of development. The important theme is isolation, which can be individual’s isolation from the public or the country’s isolation from the war. Welles raised some very important ideas in relation to the war and the place of the United States in it. The movie was released in 1942 when the rest of the world has been fighting in the Second World War, and when the US officials have been discussing whether to isolate themselves or get involved in order to change the situation. Therefore, the movie was the product of the many ideas in the American society since the citizens had similar doubts. The film’s main character, Charles Kane decides to promote isolationism as he believes there would be no war, and the USA should stay out of the possible conflicts. Showing how Kane was wrong and using his character as a negative example, Welles urged the American society to become more involved in the world affairs in order to defend itself and fight against Nazism and fascism. Therefore, a very influential theme of the movie is isolationism and political manipulations. Isolationism is also connected to the main character of Kane who spent a life full of meetings and events, and who had many acquaintances but then, died alone and lonely in his huge mansion. Thus, the movie depicts isolation as it impacts a person’s life.
Another important theme of the movie was the development of free media that were supposed to respond to the expectations of the contemporary audience. Welles showed how media were used to manipulate the audience and change the public opinion in favor of the newspaper’s owner and particular goals. The movie was successful in showing the way the audience reacted to different messages and the seemingly free media. It proved that it was quite easy to fool the readers and use the public in order to promote particular ideas even if they were untrue or unjust. Henceforth, Citizen Kane managed to show the audience how easy it was to manipulate people by various tycoons. Ironically, the public was unable to understand that the same happened during the movie’s screening, with Hearst sabotaging the film, and the viewers disliking it as a result.
When analyzing the movie, it is also important to speak about original approaches toward storytelling. The film is unusual for its time because everything the viewers see is shown through flashbacks; the film also has many different perspectives and narrators that make the story more interesting and developed. Although some directors did use flashbacks for their movies before, those were just the episodes while Citizen Kane approached this technique as the main storytelling tool in the film. The movie is also famous for using deep sharp focus, which is present in most of the scenes. The moviemakers used original approaches to lighting as well as new lenses during shooting. Low-angle shots also appear as an original innovation that makes the movie so rare and original. As a result, Citizen Kane was not that well received with the audience that was not prepared for such innovations, but it did influence the moviemakers who followed and used Welles’ style and examples from the film.
The movie is black and white, and nevertheless, its visual effects are very impressive. For instance, there is a scene with many Kanes who are seen through the mirrors, and the film uses low-angle shots that enable the viewers to see the entire picture, without missing out on anything. The moviemakers also presented an innovative approach toward the use of shadow because they use it with the characters in order to portray the mood and the feeling of different episodes.
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Citizen Kane is a film about an individual and the epoch. It shows how a person evolves, changes and degrades alongside the society he or she is living in. It is a powerful tale of the period, which shaped the people and which was shaped by them. The film is very specific because it is filled with the details of the era, and it combines different times and moods perfectly. Due to the realistic characters and vivid portrayal, the viewers get the feel of the United States in the previous century. It is extremely valuable for the people who watch the movie nowadays because it does not only lead them through cinematographic and art history but into the history of the country, with its falls and ups, and with unique people who formed their time. The film is important not only as an artistic piece but as a representation of its epoch when it did not get the praise it deserved. Although the critics received it well, it did not yet become the legend it is now, which shows that some geniuses are not appreciated in their time and go far beyond the century they are living in. Orson Welles was one of such people. There is a great irony in it because from one perspective, Citizen Kane is also an autobiography of the movie’s creator that shows the long path of a talented and aspiring individual in a traditional society.