Classic Review: Citizen Kane

By Jacob Reese


If there could only be one movie deemed the most influential film of all time, it would have to go to none other than “Citizen Kane.” “Citizen Kane” is a film from 1941, written and directed by Orson Welles, who also plays the main character, Charles Foster Kane. Taking place after his death, the film tells the story of Kane’s life through a series of flashbacks, each told by a different friend, lover, or otherwise acquaintance. Each of these characters is being questioned by a journalist who is trying to uncover the mystery around Kane’s final words: “Rosebud.”

Because the movie spends a lot of time with the characters, it is important that they are both well written and well acted. Although modern viewers may find some performances dated, the majority of the performances are extremely captivating. Even though every actor and actress gives their all, it is Orson Welles as Kane who truly steals the show. Playing the same character from young adulthood into his elderly years, Welles’ ability to adapt his acting to the age of the character is remarkable. It is almost hard to believe that the man who so well portrays a slow, sad old man was only a few scenes ago jumping and dancing with a chorus line.

Although great, it is not the acting that kept “Citizen Kane” famous for 80 years, but the beautiful and (at the time) cutting edge cinematography that is featured in this film. Orson Welles had the help of revolutionary filmmaker Gregg Toland to create a film that would shape how movies are made from then on. The film’s use of lighting and camera techniques like “deep focus” has been seen in almost every Hollywood movie since.

But impressive visuals mean nothing if the story isn’t good, but even here the film succeeds. The movie does an amazing job of making you sympathize with Kane, even when he is deeply flawed, and the reveal at the end of the film helps further emphasize the tragedy of the film and tie up the film’s themes of adulthood and loss of innocence.

Aside from the sometimes previously mentioned awkward acting, the only flaw in this movie is the pacing. Like most movies of its time it is very slow paced and takes a while to pick up to where things are getting interesting.

Although it may not be a movie for everyone, “Citizen Kane” is absolutely worthy of its status as a classic and I wholeheartedly recommend this movie to anyone who is interested in the history of movies, the art of film in general, or to anyone who just wants to know what Kane’s last words really meant.

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