Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore
Director: Orson Welles
Running Time: 119 mins
Citizen Kane is an American film about a journalist who hears accounts that tell the life story of famous newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane, searching for the meaning of the great man’s last words: ‘Rosebud’.
Now, this is widely seen as the greatest film of all time, largely because it was so revolutionary in terms of the way it was directed, laid out and paced, but also because of its fantastic story. I wouldn’t say that this is so incredible, but I do respect the historic value of this film, however what I really did enjoy was the mystery and the biography of this man’s life.
The main thing that is so strong about this film is the plot. On the one hand, it could be seen as just a biographical story of Charles Foster Kane, a truly intriguing character, and I’m sure that it would still have been a solid film as solely a biography.
However, what really makes it stand out is the fact that it’s got this mysterious side story to it, where you are searching for the meaning of the word ‘Rosebud’, adding an extra layer of depth to the story, while you have to concentrate twice as hard, having to not only follow along to the life story of Kane, but also search for the very subtly hidden meaning of his last words.
The way the story is structured is particularly interesting. Nowadays, it doesn’t seem anything particularly unorthodox, but telling the story of a man effectively entirely through flashbacks and second-hand accounts was quite an innovative idea in 1941, and it does work to great effect here, bringing you closer to the story seeing as it’s told straight through the eyes of other characters in Kane’s life, rather than just a simple narrative.
The character of Charles Foster Kane is also hugely intriguing. Kane himself is a fiction, but he’s based on various newspaper tycoons from the period at the turn of the century, as well as a bit of Orson Welles (whose performance here as Kane is stunning). The character is a hugely enigmatic and mysterious man, who, although always seeming strongly self-centred and determined, is often revealed to be surprisingly compassionate at points, and that conflict between his business and emotional sides is one of the main drivers of the character’s development throughout the film.
Finally, I do have to praise this film for its pacing. Nowadays, it’s often tough to get through older films, because they are generally significantly slower, however this is genuinely very fluid and rapid enough to keep you engrossed in its brilliant story from start to finish, so that’s why I’ll give it an 8.4.