I was just about 18 when I first watched ‘Citizen Kane’. A college freshman with a newfound love for movies, I saw ‘Citizen Kane’ only due to its immense popularity amongst critics. And, to be quite honest, I couldn’t understand the movie; I couldn’t relate to it. How could I ? How could any 18-year old relate to a tragic tale of loneliness and depression of one of the most powerful and richest men in the planet. Charles Foster Kane had everything a man could aspire for, yet he wasn’t happy; he felt trapped within himself. I couldn’t relate to that sentiment, not at that point in my life. A couple of years later, with a more mature understanding of art and life in general, I revisited ‘Citizen Kane’, and surprisingly came out emotionally moved.
Written and directed by the great Orson Welles, ‘Citizen Kane’ has Welles’ himself playing the titular role of Charles Foster Kane, a megalomaniac media mogul, whose life is retraced by a journalist after his death. The movie is said to be quasi autobiographical, based on Welles’ own life and that of media tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Featuring revolutionary technical achievements, and advanced storytelling techniques, ‘Citizen Kane’ is today considered to be the greatest American film ever made, having made it to numerous all time great lists. So, what is it about ‘Citizen Kane’? What makes it the great film that it is? Let us dig deeper.
Charles Foster Kane is dead; alone and lonely in his extravagant private palace Xanadu. The last word he uttered was “rosebud”. What is rosebud? Is it a woman? Or a memory? A newsreel journalist is assigned to find out, in an attempt to have a portrayal of the man behind the name. And through his investigations and interviews of friends and family, a portrait is painted of a man from his humble beginnings as the young son of a boarder to one of the most powerful persons in the planet. Using techniques of flashback and multiple narratives, ‘Citizen Kane’ manages to tell the story of a man who had everything, but still had nothing.
Kane is a complicated man, a man whose immense achievements powers couldn’t rob him of the emptiness he felt from within. Sent away to a boarding school at a young age, the trauma of being separated from his parents had a noticeable impact on his life, leaving him with arrested emotional growth and a hatred for authority. With the money under his trust, he takes control of a series of newspapers, thereby influencing public opinion and dominating the nation’s discourse for years. But, even as his wealth and influence grew exponentially, his personal relationships continued to deteriorate with two failed marriages and bygone friendships.