Citizen Kane: The Greatest Film of All Time?

         Orson Welles’s 1941 film, entitled Citizen Kane, has been voted number one on many greatest films lists. This makes it a top choice to review in a historical analysis of film. With all the innovations in film making since this movie was produced in 1941, how can an old black and white movie still be placed at the top of these lists that have been compiled recently? In a historical context of film, other movies have come before and after it; but what makes this film the greatest film of all time? In a sense, there is nothing visually spectacular by today’s standards. It is in black and white, and there are no complex computer-generated graphics. There is no clear epic battle between the forces of good and evil. One of the reasons this film may be so great is that it portrays the dramatic battle within the main character as he struggles with himself and the people around him in a way that is engaging to the audience.

         On the surface, the film plays out as a mystery. That is the initial element of the film that grabs the audience. What does “Rosebud” mean? It is found out through the investigation of the reporters that this man’s story was deep and intricate. On another level, the cinematography of the film reflects this in its use of deep focus and attention to detail. The acting is great in this film. Orson Welles portrays Charles Foster Kane in a way that one might think is natural to him. Supposedly the film is based on the life of William Randolf Hearst. It could seem that the film is almost based more on autobiographical elements of Orson Welles’s life. The way in which Orson Welles reacts to the other characters in the story suggests he is familiar with feelings of being hurt by the ones he loves. The audience really sees him tap into his feelings of grief as well as utter lack of caring in his marital relationships.

         It is these elements of the film and the use of cinematography that make the film great, and a cinematic masterpiece and a classic.

Brian Schuldt

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