Movies: Citizen Kane

To many, ‘Citizen Kane’ would be the ‘Mother of all Movies’. It invariably features in every list of the greatest movies ever made. And most likely, at the very top in a significant number of them.

I first saw this movie many years ago, at a film festival at Hyderabad. My admiration for the movie keeps increasing with each passing day, and with each new movie that I watch.

The movie has a very simple storyline, but engrossing narration and screenplay make it entertaining. Upon reading about the death of a wealthy celebrity Kane, in his isolated mansion, a newspaper reporter sets out in search of a story. Kane’s dying words are reportedly something like ‘My beloved Rosebud…..’, and the reporter hopes to figure out its meaning and make a fortune for himself. In the process he takes the audience through the rags to riches story of Kane. Unfortunately for him, he does not accomplish his mission. The director however reveals the Rosebud to the audience. A startling revelation.

So, what makes this movie special? Lots and lots have been written about this movie by every expert and every expert group, by legends, by celebrities, by intellectuals, by critics, by common men. By almost everyone who is connected with the movie industry – even if he were only a movie goer like me. I have nothing to add except recording a few things about the movie that fascinate me personally.

To begin with, the movie’s screenplay appears timeless to me. One could make an interesting film even today by just adopting the screenplay of this movie. The magnitude of this achievement may not strike many people at the first, but spare a thought. It is truly remarkable that even after 7 decades, the screenplay appears fresh and contemporary, and can possibly compete with vast majority of movies released today.

The non-linear style of storytelling, intermittent flashbacks, juggling between the present and the past, a style that Christopher Nolan seems to perfect now – well, you can catch it in this movie in the way the reporter gathers information about the life and times of Kane.

Introducing a mystery very early in the movie, sustaining the suspense throughout the movie, and uncovering it in a stunning fashion, a style that has become synonymous with Manoj Shyamalan – the ‘Rosebud’ does exactly that for you. The revelation at the end would show Kane is such a different light that most people would be tempted to watch it again to see if there are any clues pointing to that human side of Kane – something similar to what Sixth Sense achieved.

Superior movie-making techniques alone rarely result in a classic. Classic movies have a soul of their own. An emotional impact that remains long after you have forgotten your admiration for the talents displayed. An experience that becomes a part of you. And you start to enjoy it without trying to figure it out. Citizen Kane would offer such an experience to most people.

A movie not to be missed.

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