Many audiences regarded Citizen Kane, a black-and-white motion picture directed by Orson Welles in 1941, to be one of the best American movies ever produced. The movie brings to screen a riveting depiction of Charles Foster Kane’s opulent but tragic life, which leaves audiences with some contemplation over child development, the poisonous power of money and the media world.
Citizen Kane was sliced into different narratives recounted from the perspectives of people working and living closely with Kane. This creative storytelling method helps engage the audiences in the quest for learning about a seemingly eminent figure, whose death at the opening prompts many publications to have their first page announcing his death. It is also a quite journalistic approach to “reporting” Kane’s life, which is relevant to the movie’s media theme. Yet, rather than offering a wide array of views on Mr. Kane, every narrator seems to agree that the protagonist is an egomaniac. Each gives the audiences a glance at a phase of Kane’s life, which is connected with one another in a chronological order from when Kane was a child separated from his parents to when he became a lonely man dying after uttering the mysterious word “Rosebud”. Interestingly, no one knows and will know what this word means because every door leading to the understanding of Kane’s personality has been closed off after such an early separation from his parents. The rebellious and contemptuous look that the eight-year-old Kane (Buddy Swan) shot at his new guardian is powerful and haunting, especially to parents. Kane’s aggressive reaction to Mr. Thatcher, a guardian who will guarantee his future reveals Kane’s natural disdain for oppression. This trait will be shown again later, when Kane loses him temper and shouts at the political opponent who threatens to reveal his affair. From the perspectives of Kane’s mother, she is doing the best for him. But for Kane, it is different. Because he never felt loved, Kane grows up to be a person who can’t love anyone, even himself. This sharp detail reminds parents of the danger of raising a child with concerns only over materialistic but not mental needs. Even Kane himself said, “ If I hadn’t been very rich, I might have been a really great man.” “Rosebud”, which at the end is revealed (only to audiences), turns out to be the sled from his childhood. At the border of death, Kane longs for the item that symbolizes the happiness in that certain age, which he experiences very briefly. He, in a way, never grows up, forever trapped in his 8-year-old person.
The media world is also reflected in Citizen Kane through Kane’s story. The audiences realize immediately after watching halfway through the movie that Kane isn’t a value-driven journalist. No ethical journalist can say, “People will think what I tell them to think.” The job of the journalist reporting news is to provide information but leave it to the audiences who will decide what and how to think. Kane is geared toward the competitiveness of journalism, setting the ambitious goal for New York Inquirer to be the main source of news in the city. He makes an intelligent observation, “If the headline is big enough it makes the news big enough.” Kane also steals the reporters from the Chronicles, turns himself into a workaholic ordering the newspaper to function 24 hours a day and attacks the President with what the newspaper publishes. Kane is also the person coming up with two rules in his Declaration of Principles, which he doesn’t keep, firing his friend who writes the truth. These small details show different and truthful aspects of journalism, which can still be applied to nowadays.
With spectacular cinematography, a complex plot and wonderful acting, Citizen Kane is indeed a work that deserves appreciation.