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Citizen Kane (1941) - Film Review

Updated on May 12, 2011

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,

Old time is still a-flying;

And this same flower that smiles today,

Tomorrow will be dying.”      

     -  Robert Herrick

I got this from the film Dead Poets Society. The film Citizen Kane is such a classic in cinema because it embodies the American dream and American life perfectly, capturing the finest moments of all our lives. From starting a business, to finding love, to finding love twice, to making a friend, to losing a friend, to having everything material imaginable, and then to losing it all in the fire. This was the life of an ambitious American man who had it all, and then lost it. It something that we all can relate and have some type of sentiment towards, and thus it became an American classic. Rosebud was the name for the sleigh that he used as a child. For what it meant I believe came from the Herrick poem mentioned earlier basically meaning Carpe Diem, or “seize the day”. Make the most out of life, while you still have it, because life is short. I think the film did an excellent job of showing you a life pass before your very eyes, and show you what is truly important. 

Kane just wanted someone to love him, someone to show him that he was wanted for something other than his fame or money. His flaw was that he believed he could buy this love, package it, and control it like he did his favorite sleigh. The truth of the matter is that you can’t control it, you have to earn it. It did a very excellent job of showing the upper-class as having very human flaws, and also as obnoxious and proud. It also shows them to be very center-minded on their own advancement and their own affairs. Citizen Kane constantly made decisions for others, like his second wife’s singing and the newspaper’s headlines. One very disturbing moment was when he threatened Susan’s singing instructor to continue teaching her by hinting that he would write a bad review about him in the paper if he didn’t. This shows the control that Kane believes he possesses, and also something very disturbing about the media. That the media in its entirety, controls the way the public thinks and is persuaded. It shows you that you have to be objective when presented with “real facts” and always be away of what is really being said. 

I believe the most innovative technique that Orson used was the multiple narrators. Each person had a different account of what they remembered about Kane specific to their own person. All it does is leave you searching for more answers about who was Charles Kane. Another heavily used cinematic technique is that of montage. His marriage to his first wife is seen only at the breakfast table and how quickly they changed from loving to bitter over a period of many years. It was shown again with Susan playing with the jigsaw puzzle in different ways showing that she’s doing many puzzles over a long period of time, thus giving you the sense of her boredom and loss of time within the Kane home. My favorite scene was when Kane first purchased the New York Inquirer. He had the promise and ambition of a young man, fueled to do great and good things in the world. He promised the truth, and dedication to the people, it symbolized the start of a life. It was however a false hope as Kane’s life would end in sorrow. Life is quick, right now, all youth have such promise, such wild dreams and hopes for the future, that sometimes they forget to live now, and remember where they came from, and what they are living for. Such is that one must “gather ye rosebuds while ye may” for “this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will by dying” as was seen with the life of Citizen Kane.  


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