There are films that people normally take for granted, yet every once in a while, there’s one movie that comes along, challenges people’s perception about cinema, and is instantly regarded as a masterpiece in cinema history. Citizen Kane is one of those films, and ever since it’s release 75 years ago, it’s still being hailed – almost universally – as the single best motion picture that has ever been made and its champions have constantly compared it with other cinematic gems, almost as a means of saying “they don’t make films like they used to”. Truthfully, that comparative statement has been flogged to death, but that doesn’t detract from the huge impact this film made back then and how now in this modern age, the film’s subject matter is strangely relevant.
The film’s titular antihero was inspired by media-mogul William Randolph Hearst, who was that generation’s Donald Trump frankly, and ironically, Hearst detested the film so much, he tried everything in his power to prevent the movie from reaching release. Also, the fact that Kane was married and divorced twice and had everything only to lose it all is heavily reminiscent of Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, however unlike that film, this contains an emotional core that has you invested. It is a film about the loss of innocence and the longing for happiness, whilst also centrally being about life versus death, which is the strongest and most common theme in most famous literature, and that’s one of the central reasons why this film is still a cinematic classic.
Throughout the film, you’re constantly trying to grasp the film’s meaning, and it isn’t until the film’s final moments that the film really hits home with its powerful message; you start feeling uncertain, yet this is followed by a feeling of enlightenment and appreciation that makes the film such a meaningful and emotional experience. Another aspect that has made the film so revered is in its technicality, which even at the time, was viewed as revolutionary. The concept of having Kane’s life play out by jumping in and out of non-linear flashbacks might’ve made the film convoluted, but instead, it’s surprisingly well structured and very easy for casual audiences to keep track of.
However, the real key component that made everything work was one man and he is the man: Orson Welles. He basically went through a “David and Goliath”-style battle to get the film made: tackling with Hearst, trying to get the studio execs off his back and, through making the shooting schedules long and arduous, the production crew clashed with him constantly. Plus, the film received boos when it was nominated at the Oscars. Then again, the great visionaries were often unappreciated at first; take Vincent van Gogh for example! Like van Gogh, Welles put his heart and soul into each and every one of his films, and with Citizen Kane (his debut feature), he literally put his own sweat, blood and tears into making this his masterpiece.
In that sense, Citizen Kane is a film that broke the mould for moviemaking; from the meticulously planned camera work to the towering performances (not least from Welles himself), there isn’t a single component that doesn’t make this a stunning achievement in all aspects of filmmaking.
CITIZEN KANE- 75TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ORSON WELLES / SCREENPLAY: ORSON WELLES, HERMAN J. MANKIEWICZ / STARRING: ORSON WELLES, JOSEPH COTTON, EVERETT SLOANE, DOROTHY COMINGORE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW