Tips for Thought

‘Citizen Kane’ Revisited: Understanding the Artistry and Life Lessons of a Film Classic

“Citizen Kane,” directed by Orson Welles and released in 1941, is a film that stands as a landmark in cinema history. It is renowned for its innovative storytelling, deep characterization, and the technical mastery with which it was made. The film tells the story of Charles Foster Kane, a newspaper tycoon whose rise to power is paralleled with his personal decline. But beyond its rich narrative, “Citizen Kane” offers profound lessons that remain relevant to contemporary audiences.

The film begins with the death of Kane, and his enigmatic final word: “Rosebud.” A journalist is tasked with uncovering the meaning behind this word, delving into Kane’s life through interviews and flashbacks. From his humble beginnings to his rise as a media magnate, the audience learns of Kane’s triumphs, failures, relationships, and the emptiness that haunts his life. The mystery of “Rosebud” ultimately reveals the longing for a simpler, more innocent time.

Cinematic Achievements

1. Innovative Storytelling: Welles’ use of non-linear narrative, flashbacks, and deep focus cinematography changed the way films were made.

2. Technical Brilliance: The film is celebrated for its groundbreaking techniques, such as the use of shadows, angles, and sound to convey emotion and meaning.

3. Character Depth: Kane’s complexity, brought to life by Welles’ performance, provides a character study that resonates with viewers to this day.

The Lessons

1. The Pursuit of Power and Its Cost: Kane’s ambition leads him to great wealth and influence, but at the expense of personal relationships and happiness. The lesson here is that unchecked ambition can lead to a hollow existence.

2. Material Wealth Does Not Equal Happiness: Despite his riches, Kane is portrayed as an isolated and unhappy figure. This serves as a stark reminder that material possessions cannot replace genuine human connection.

3. The Complexity of Human Nature: Kane’s character is neither wholly good nor wholly bad, reflecting the nuanced nature of humanity. It teaches us to approach others with empathy and understanding, recognizing that people are multifaceted.

4. The Power of Memory and Nostalgia: “Rosebud” symbolizes Kane’s longing for his lost childhood and innocence. It’s a poignant lesson about cherishing moments and understanding how the past shapes us.

5. Media Influence and Responsibility: As a media tycoon, Kane’s manipulation of public opinion offers a timeless commentary on the media’s power and ethical responsibility. It’s a lesson on the need for integrity and honesty in journalism.

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“Citizen Kane” is more than a critically acclaimed film; it’s a cultural artifact that continues to inspire filmmakers and audiences alike. The lessons gleaned from Kane’s life – about ambition, wealth, humanity, memory, and media responsibility – are universal and enduring.

By examining these lessons, viewers can gain insights into their lives and the world around them. “Citizen Kane” is not merely a story about a wealthy man’s downfall; it’s a profound exploration of human nature and the values that shape our lives. It’s a timeless piece that continues to resonate, reflecting the complexities and contradictions of the human experience.

Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.