Commentary on Citizen Kane

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 .

The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia.  You can get additional information by viewing this site.

“Storytelling techniques”

“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.[70] 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.[70] Each narrator recounts a different part of Kane’s life, with each story partly overlapping.[71] 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.[70] 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.[71]”

One of the narrative voices is the News on the March segment.[70] Its stilted dialogue and portentous voiceover is a parody of The March of Time newsreel series[72] 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.[73]”

25 responses to “Commentary on Citizen Kane

  1. I really liked the use of multiple narratees as a delivery system for the plots mysterious development. It was really cool that each person told their unique individual point of view about Kane, and really served to make a really interesting narrative experience.

  2. I had to watch this film twice because it was easy to daze off while watching it the first time but overall I like the idea of how the word rosebud is the last word Kane says and we don’t find out till the end the meaning behind it. Things like that can get the viewer to keep watching

  3. The fact this movie was made so long ago made me not want to watch it. I did however watch it and it brings up the question of whether this man was ever as successful as everyone thinks he is.

  4. Citizen Kane was easy to understand. It demonstrates how unreliable memories can be when someone is trying to find out information about someone who died.

  5. Citizen Kane was easy to understand and to understand the concepts of the themes in the play. I liked how Kane never told his story I liked how his story was told by either the reporter or someone else that knew a little something about him. One of the themes I got from this play was that just because an individual has wealth that can make that individual isolate themselves and end up alone.

  6. I think everyone describing Kane is just like everyday situations. People think alike about a certain topic and others think opposite. It’s the whole idea Kollitz has been expressing all semester that as individuals we need to think for ourselves to know the truth and not believe what other people say.

  7. Citizen Kane was one of the first movies to depict the American Dream as anything less than desirable

  8. This story may be one the most uninteresting I have seen in a long time. I had no entrest with this movie.

  9. Citizen Kane is majestic, elegant and noble. The video was confusing at first because I did not realize that it begans at the end. Yet we see a man of obvious wealth and power breathe his last, and then the mysteries of his life are unraveled via a series of anecdotes.

  10. At first i thought the film was kind of confusing. Not until the end, that i realized that the film is like a puzzle. There were a lot of time shifting and scene shifting. I could never thought that rose bud is the sled. It represents Kan’s childhood memories.

  11. Control is very intoxicating and Kane has a great need for it. This need can be attributed to his childhood. As a child, he was happy, but then he was sent off against his will to live another life. In a way, Kane never had control over his life since the day he left home. Kane has an overwhelming need for control and because of it he has lost everything that was dear to him – the people he loved, his money, and his sanity.

  12. This was a great film. It really shows how there is two sides for every person. You just need to go with what you think its right. The same goes for this coming election.

  13. I really enjoyed this film! I really noticed the symbolism in this movie and it really makes you think! I love the ending of the movie also. I never would of thought it would be his sled!

  14. This movie does have interesting storytelling techniques using narratives with different point of view. And this movie is pretty old! but it was still good, so no wonder why it is considered to be among the best films of the 20th century. I am thinking what I have to write about it for final. I need to research more about this movie. One more interesting thing about this movie is that the movie gets attention from audiences with using symbol “Rose bud,” and it makes audiences get curiosity from the beginning of the movie.

  15. I took it interesting how everyone was looking for “rosebud” but no one could find it and at the end it was his memories.

  16. This is a very interesting clip that I just seen. Seems like you need to get to know Kane in order to make your own opinion about him. I really thinks its funny how they described Kane as a dirty dog! Most of the girls love him, gives me the impression he’s a very loving guy, sort of like a lady’s man.

  17. i think from this clip it is a movie i really am interested in seeing and cant wait for it.

  18. I have not had the chance to watch this movie and am very excited to watch it tomorrow and write about it for our final exam.

  19. As the days go by I am more and more intrigued about this movie, giving the fact that this film is going to be the topic of our last essay (our in class final essay).

  20. I am very interested to watch this movie in class. It seems very different and entertaining.

  21. Citizen Kane seems to be very interesting, since there is going to be diffrent ideas of who is Charles Foster Kane. I can’t wait to see the diffrent narrarations within the characters.

  22. It will be interesting to see how the turnings are depicted in this film. I’ve seen RKO 281 starring Liev Schreiber as Olson Wells. It is truly about the making of the film and the symbolism behind the character.
    By the way, the shocking conclusion about the end of the film was that the only truly thing he cared about was Rosebud, his final words before he died. Then they show the close up of the sled. But since the movie is based on William Randolph Hearst, at that time the most powerful man in the United States, who was cheating on his wife. Hearst’s nickname for his mistress lower region was “rosebud”. Orson Welles put that in the movie as a slight on William Randolph Hearst, because Hearst tried with all his power to stop the film from ever being made.

  23. looks like a great movie i think i will try and see this whenever i get a chance very interesting!

  24. I just finished watching the film’s trailer of “Citizen Kane” and it appears to be a great movie. I am intrigued about the plot of the movie and I am interested to watch the movie to find out what is all about.

  25. Very fasicnating to see how each character plays into their roles and with great physical attributes. The saying, “There is always two sides to a story”. Can the same be said about a person, it clearly depends on who yoou ask. It’s very intriging to watch how each character weaves or adds to the complicated web that is Kane.

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