Jan 10, 2017

Citizen Kane – 1941 – best classic flick ever?




I feel a bit ashamed, since I never saw this flick until yesterday. As an autodidact film expert I should have seen this many many years ago. But sometimes fate is something else compared to what you want. Let’s leave it at that. I didn’t see it. Live with it! J

But yesterday I unwrapped the blu ray that I have had for some time now. As few years actually. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Was this really the greatest film I history? Sure, I read about it. I read about it in books about the technical aspects of movie making. How Citizen Kane used shooting techniques almost unheard of before its release. Was it true? Did it still live up to today’s standards when it comes to storytelling? I feel that there are no easy answers to all these questions.




There’s no doubt in my mind that Orson Welles was a genius when it comes to moviemaking. I might not be as accomplished as a film viewer (or self-appointed expert) that I can describe all technical shooting techniques in words. But I’m certainly intrigued by the camerawork here. Some scenes are just spectacular. There’s even early traces of CGI in there. Of course it’s not really CGI, that would have been waaaay ahead of time. But there are a couple of birds that are in no way the real thing and are placed in the movie sequence in some other manner, hence early CGI comment.

The move spans over time and this means that the actors need to adapt their acting to the age there are in at the specific scene. This is of course done with makeup but also by acting skills. It’s totally convincing! And since it’s not one or two of the actors but about everybody in the movie it’s quite remarkable. Another remarkable thing that struck me is that Orson Welles himself (as the role of Kane) is actually credited last even though everything revolves around him. One could argue if he has the lead part or not but he’s certainly in the center of things.

The movie actually begins with Kane dying, and when doing so utters his last word “Rosebud”. After that we get to see a news reel about the life and achievements of Charles Foster Kane. We get to know what people officially thought about him, his official persona if you like. He is called both a communist and a fascist, he’s equally hated and love by the people. He’s considered eccentric by some, crazy by others. This is the first piece of the puzzle the movie is about to give us about Kane. Just as the reporters wonder what the meaning of his last word were, we get interested in who he really was. Could he really be that eclectic or did he have a hidden agenda?




What follow are stories about the people around Charles Foster Kane that outlives him. A reporter seeks them out to get to the bottom of the meaning of his last word. As he asks his questions we get to see fragments from his life as seen through the people around him. These truths are not necessarily the same as the public image of Kane suggests. He might not be such a philanthropist, not seeking the truth to print in his newspapers. Maybe he’s just a narcissist after all. Maybe he’s not even that. He might just be a boy who got unhappy the first time he encountered the influence of wealth. His rise and fall might just be an act for the public eye. Deep down inside he might still be the innocent child he once was.

There’s no way of actually knowing the true meaning of the film. It might be as simple as a statement about the corruption of money or the wrecking of youth. Charles Foster Kane is forced into a society he doesn’t want to belong to. He just wants to be a boy on his sledge. That is my interpretation anyway.

It’s surely a great film by any standards. I didn’t find it to be the ultimate masterpiece but it’s pretty darn good and the storytelling is top notch. If you haven’t seen it I suggest you do, it’s worth it. I promise!

Tommy Snöberg Söderberg