Citizen Kane, Orson Welles first feature film, is considered one of the most important and influential films ever made. It was a film way ahead of its time in all senses. It used a non linear approach to the story telling, employed a vast array of visual and audio techniques that were not necessarily new, but had never before been used together to such startling effect.
The story examines the life and legacy of Charles Foster Kane, a character that starts out with an idealistic social service, but gradually evolves into a ruthless pursuit of power. Told primarily in flashbacks, the film begins with Kane??™s death. With his last breath, Kane says, ???Rosebud.??? Immediately a newsreel begins, reviewing the highlights of Kane??™s career as the camera had recorded them over the years. Unsatisfied, a group of journalists decide to probe deeper in an attempt to discover the truth about Kane, and to discover the significance of ???Rosebud.??? The journalists set up a series of interviews with key people in Kane??™s life, each of whom relates the man??™s story as he or she knew it.
One of the story-telling techniques used in Citizen Kane was the use of montage to collapse time and space. Using the same set and having the characters change costume between cuts so that the scene following each cut would look as if it took place in the same location, but at a time long after the previous cut. This is seen in the breakfast montage where Welles shows the breakdown of Kane??™s first marriage.
Welles pioneered several visual effects in order to cheaply shoot things like crowded scenes and large interior spaces. Many of the shots at Xanadu were done by effectively using miniatures to make the film look much more expensive than it truly was. Make up during the film was also effectively used to portray the effects of aging, especially to depict old Kane.
Citizen Kane was one of the first movies that expertly used light and shadow to emphasize the importance of certain objects and characters throughout the movie. A prime example of this occurs when the reporter enters the study of Mr. Thatcher to observe what occurred in the early years of Kane. As he enters the enormous study, there is a light directed at an angle in the room. If you look closely the light is directed at a book in the room that contains Kane??™s childhood. When the reporter opens the book, the contrast between the dark and light is extreme enough that the book looks as if it??™s glowing. This was perhaps to show the importance of the book, which contained memories from Kane??™s childhood.
Welles expertly used sound to give Citizen Kane a more realistic feel. The audio in the film is very strong and makes you feel as if you are sitting next to the characters. The dialogue also overlaps which gives a more realistic feel of a group of people, some of whom are talking at the same time.
I believe that Citizen Kane was a great film that opened doors for future filmmakers. It is a great film to watch, especially for those who don??™t really appreciate classical film. Compared to today??™s films, Citizen Kane uses old and archaic effects, but it makes up for it by creating characters and situations that the audience can relate to and feel for. As mentioned before, many of the techniques used in Citizen Kane were not new, but the combination and the effects the techniques had on the film are what make the movie a classical masterpiece.