Why does Barry Norman describe Citizen Kane as “the (most influential) greatest film ever made”
The film ‘Citizen Kane’ has been voted the greatest film ever by thousands of film critics and directors every year. It was very nearly not released because William Randolph Hearst believed that the film was based on his life, and that it was wrong of Welles to make a film about him. Hearst tried very hard to stop the release and through his newspaper tried to get people to boycott the film. Because of all this bad publicity it wasn’t a commercial success until, it was re-released after the Second World War.
The re-release was very successful though, and it reached Europe where it received great recognition as well. Time and time again ‘Citizen Kane’ has been voted the greatest and most influential film ever to be made and that ever will be made, by the film critics and directors of several generations. The opening sequence to this film only has one word in it and it creates a sense of mystery and curiosity. The one word is ‘Rosebud’ and it is the main idea of the whole film, what does this word mean?
The audience sees a number of places that don’t seem to fit in with each other but the same castle is always in the background of these places. This tells the audience that the places shown are all linked in some way and because the audience doesn’t quite know how all of these places are linked it makes them watch on to find out. The beginning sequence also has music playing in the background it is quite eerie music and would normally be related to a horror film, there is all a lot of gothic imagery used in the shots of this castle.
This first sequence will attract the audience’s attention and make them want to watch on. The man’s loneliness is being represented in this sequence, the house that he is in seems very large and there seems to be only him and a nurse in it, this represents that although the man is living in a very large house he is lonely and lacks many communication with other people. The narrative of ‘Citizen Kane’ would have been very unusual at the time of its release.
The beginning is of the Mr Kane dying, and then the rest of the film consists of a reporter trying to find out about Mr Kane’s last words. As the reporter is asking various people about Mr Kane the audience are shown flashbacks of Mr Kane’s life from when he was very young to when he died. This technique has been used since in films such as ‘Forest Gump’. The splitting up of the story like this keeps the audiences attention and links every thing back to the main idea of the plot, to find out what ‘Rosebud’ means.
As the reporter talks to different people from Mr Kane’s life the audience begin to understand Mr Kane’s problem, he had all the money he wanted but still wasn’t happy, the audience want to know why he wasn’t happy living this Americans dream to become wealthy, successful and prosperous. This type of narrative keeps the audience attention throughout the film because little by little more about the life of Mr Kane is revealed but still there is always something missing until the very end. Welles uses techniques that hadn’t been used before in the direction and camera work of films.
He showed the ceilings of the sets, this created a more life like set and the audience will believe the story more. He showed the gates and fences a lot around the home of Mr Kane this emphasises the desolation and loneliness of Mr Kane in all of his riches. He shows the unbelievable castle like home of Mr Kane in such away to represent that how Mr Kane lives is in a completely different way to the average American. This it makes it almost impossible for most people to relate to Mr Kane this will add curiosity and make the audience watch on to discover why Mr Kane isn’t happy.
There is a wide variety of different camera shots used in this film, from the fish eye shot in the opening sequence to the deep focus shots used throughout the whole film. The Fisheye shot is used at the beginning to show the deep isolation of Mr Kane when he was dying. There is a lot of tracking shots in this film and quite a few of them are vertically done, I think this has been done to represent the extent of Mr Kane’s riches. Sounds have been used too, they are used to create the atmosphere and setting.
The first sound clip creates an atmosphere that doesn’t necessarily fit in with the genre of the film, it creates a eerie and scary atmosphere when the film doesn’t have many scary or eerie scenes in it. In other places the sound is just used to complete the setting making sure the audience totally believe that the characters are in the place in the setting. In today’s society it is difficult for the modern audience to watch the film because today’s technology is much more advanced and this can create better effects making modern film more realistic easily.
Also many of the original ideas in this film have been used in other modern film so they don’t seem new to the modern audience. However the film had many new and original ideas that have since been used in numerous other films. This must prove that the film has been greatly influential to filmmakers and directors since. Barry Norman has looked at the great success of the film at the time of its re-release and how its ideas and techniques have been used since, and from this deducted that this film, ‘Citizen Kane’, must be “the (most influential) greatest film ever made”.