Citizen Kane, often cited by critics as the greatest film of all time, is a 1941 American drama written, directed by and starring Orson Welles in his first feature film. The story, thinly disguised as a biographical piece about newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, examines the rise and fall of Charles Foster Kane, played by Welles. Narrated mostly through flashbacks, the story is told from a reporter’s point of view who is seeking to resolve the mystery behind Kane’s dying word: ‘Rosebud’.
The innovatively complex chronological order, bold use of surrealistic camera-work and convincing make-up effects are all reasons as to why Citizen Kane has long been considered the ‘Granddaddy’ of film. Welles, while still at a tender age of 25, earned his first and only Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay despite the film being nominated for nine overall. For a man of his age managing to produce, co-write, direct and take on a leading role in Citizen Kane, while excelling in every department, is still considered an astounding achievement even 70 years after the film’s theatrical release.
Bernard Herrmann, who worked with Alfred Hitchcock on most of his movies including Psycho and Vertigo, composed the score for Citizen Kane. Despite it being a refreshingly different score from Herrmann’s usual work, the music is considered to be a landmark in film soundtrack which has proven to be just as influential as any of the film’s other experimental characteristics. Orson Welles, years before his death, informed director Henry Jaglom that the score for the film was fifty per cent responsible for the film’s artistic success.
The reasons behind why Citizen Kane seems to have risen to the top of almost every ‘Best Movie’ chart appears to be endless; the excellent direction, the penetrating performances by almost every cast member (from Welles and Dorothy Comingore (Kane’s second wife Susan) in particular) and the way in which the music of Bernard Herrmann all being used to devastating effect. These are all valid reasons to why, after multiple viewings, it’s clear to see that Citizen Kane was not only a film ahead of its time on release, but a film that has stood the test of time ever since.
Best performance: Orson Welles, obviously.