Citizen Kane, considered to be among the best films of the 20th century, debuted in 1941. This film uses time shifting, scene shifting, symbols, duality, solipsism, use of the narratee, and unique photographic techniques to produce Hollywood’s first postmodern film. While watching the film, one can observe how contemporary film makers develop these same techniques to create a unique way of influencing the audience. Like other contemporary postmodern films, Citizen Kane demonstrates multiple themes.
Anyone who has seen the documentary film Generation Zero will see how the screenwriters represent the chaotic views of the societal turnings in American history, especially the fragmentation of the fourth turning during the Great Depression when they wrote the script .
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“Citizen Kane eschews the traditional linear, chronological narrative and tells Kane’s story entirely in flashback using different points of view, many of them from Kane’s aged and forgetful associates, the cinematic equivalent of the unreliable narrator in literature. Welles also dispenses with the idea of a single storyteller and uses multiple narrators to recount Kane’s life. The use of multiple narrators was unheard of in Hollywood movies. Each narrator recounts a different part of Kane’s life, with each story partly overlapping. The film depicts Kane as an enigma, a complicated man who, in the end, leaves viewers with more questions than answers as to his character, such as the newsreel footage where he is attacked for being both a communist and a fascist. The technique of using flashbacks had been used in earlier films such as Wuthering Heights in 1939 and The Power and the Glory in 1933 but no film was so immersed in this technique as Citizen Kane. The use of the reporter Thompson acts as a surrogate for the audience, questioning Kane’s associates and piecing together his life.”
One of the narrative voices is the News on the March segment. Its stilted dialogue and portentous voiceover is a parody of The March of Time newsreel series which itself references an earlier newsreel which showed the 85-year old arms czar Sir Basil Zaharoff getting wheeled to his train. Welles had earlier provided voiceovers for the March of Time radio show. Citizen Kane makes extensive use of stock footage to create the newsreel.
One of the story-telling techniques used in Citizen Kane was the use of montage to collapse time and space. Using an episodic sequence on the same set while the characters changed costume and make-up between cuts so that the scene following each cut would look as if it took place in the same location, but at a time long after the previous cut. In the breakfast montage, Welles chronicles the breakdown of Kane’s first marriage in 5 vignettes, which takes 16 years of story time and condenses it into two minutes of screen time.”