Citizen Kane (1941)


Often given the title as the greatest film of all time by critics and directors.


Language :  English 

Director : Orson Welles.

Writers : Herman J. Mankiewicz , Orson Welles.

Cast :  Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore.

Genre : Drama | Mystery 

Imdb: Citizen Kane (1941)

Streaming on Youtube.

Often given the title as the greatest film of all time by critics and directors. The film that held #1 position on the decadal poll of the greatest films of all time by The Sight and Sound from 1962 to 2012 (dislodged by Vertigo in 2012) and on many others. Citizen Kane in a word is the perfect film, that would be a school for future filmmakers (in which even Orson Welles was a student).

In an exuberant mansion called Xanadu, the aged Charles Foster Kane is on his deathbed. He dies by loudly saying “Rosebud”. The death becomes very sensational and a newsreel obituary is shown telling the story of the wealthy newspaper publisher’s life. The producer of the newsreel figures he needs something more to it and tasks reporter Jerry Thompson to discover what Kane’s last words mean.

The film starts in a gothic style showing us the extensive mansion and slowly transitions to Kane’s deathbed and his death, then to a newsreel briefly explaining his life, and to the people who knew him telling about the life of Charlie Kane as they’re inquired by the reporter. It has a non linear narrative structure in which the narrative is told from multiple perspectives; the story of Kane is told from the views of his peers and is not chronological. It starts with his death and then moves disoriented as the perspective shifts from us to the peers.

Charles Foster Kane is undoubtedly one of the well written characters with huge depth. We’ve seen many rich jerks seeking love and getting disillusioned not just by people but by life itself, Kane is such a character. We may feel sorry for him, we may not; it heavily depends on us, the audience and how we perceive his actions, decisions and the circumstances in which he made those. As the movie is told from multiple perspectives, it gets very subjective.

Orson Welles can be called a pioneer as he is among the very first to get full creative control over his films; [his success in theatre and radio dramas swayed RKO to bestow him that]. Sovereignty gave him freedom to try almost everything that came to his mind and the consequence is something unprecedented. It’s not just the nonlinear narration that makes it feel unique or great but also how Welles presented us the life of Mr. Kane. Another important aspect that enhanced the overall experience is the screenplay co-written by Herman J. Mankiewicz, the wit of the script is very surprising. The brilliance of the screenplay is prevalent throughout the movie; the actions, the dialogues feel curious and fascinating at times and make the movie more sublime.

Citizen Kane is a film that demonstrated that cinematography and editing are crucial for establishing mood and tone. Tracking shots, low angle shots, deep focus and high contrast etcetera by Greg Tolland definitely added a lot to make the film more riveting. The editing by Robert Wise definitely incremented the overall beauty of the film; the transitions from one scene to the other and the superimpositions make the movie feel (though not as subtle as the direction, cinematography and screenplay) very smooth and captivating. The editing and cinematography gave me a fantastic visual experience. Bernad Herrmann’s soundtracks stand out as well and are commendable along with the other aspects of the film.

The film got my attention from the very first scene, and as the narrative unfolded I got myself immersed in it. Welles was able to present the movie ambiguously leaving it entirely for us to judge and feel for Mr. Kane and I love Orson Welles for that. Even though the film is old and it certainly feels that at times, it is subtle. Everything about the film is great; the direction, the screenplay, the cinematography, the editing and the soundtracks. It’s one of the few films where every aspect of it is perfect and even if there are faults, we won’t notice it because overall it is nothing but amazing.

I don’t think we can appreciate the film as the film’s original audience, it has aged and has its flaws. And for me the whole “Greatest of all time” title is silly, it’s ultimately about how you understand or how you enjoy a work. Considering these, Citizen Kane is not a masterpiece all the time but it is one nonetheless. It’s Terrific!

Verdict – 6/7 stars



  • Despite all the publicity, the film was a box-office flop and was quickly consigned to the RKO vaults. At 1941’s Academy Awards the film was booed every time one of its nine nominations was announced. It was only re-released to the public in the mid-’50s.

  • The audience that watches Kane make his speech is, in fact, a still photo. To give the illusion of movement, hundreds of holes were pricked in with a pin, and lights moved about behind it.

  • The film’s opening with just the title and no star names was unprecedented in 1941. It is now the industry norm for Hollywood blockbusters.

  • William Randolph Hearst was so angered by the film that he accused Orson Welles of being a Communist in order to keep the film from being released.

  • The camera looks up at Charles Foster Kane and his best friend Jedediah Leland and down at weaker characters like Susan Alexander Kane. This was a technique that Orson Welles borrowed from John Ford who had used it two years previously on Stagecoach (1939). Welles privately watched Stagecoach (1939) about 40 times while making this film.

  • On the night the movie opened in San Francisco, Orson Welles found himself alone with William Randolph Hearst in an elevator at the city’s Fairmont Hotel. Aware that his father and Hearst were friends, Welles extended an invitation to the magnate to attend the film’s premiere. Hearst turned down the offer and, as he was about to exit the elevator at his floor, Welles remarked, “Charles Foster Kane would have accepted.”

  • Read more interesting Trivia at

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Into Books, Comics, Games, Cinemas, Music, and Science. You can follow him on Instagram @xx.wrox.

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