I appreciate Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane on two levels: the first level is that of the film critic. Film critics are required to enjoy Kane, as it is – empirically – the best film ever. That said, I also enjoyed it on a personal level, though not quite as much. The cinematography in particular took me off guard, as I had never seen such cool shots and transitions in a film from the 40s before. The opening series of shots that keep Kane’s lit window in one spot, even when showing it reflected in a pond, was incredible. The pacing of the film was also impressive for the time period. Since five different perspectives were taken, five different flashbacks were presented, and the story progressed through Kane’s life over and over again, passing through years within minutes. This framing device allowed the story to sizzle in a manner unusual to the audience of the time, while still making sense to them, since they were familiar with flashbacks.
The cinematography and pace were the two elements that kept me entertained. That aside, the rest of the film was also good. Solid acting, great angles and framework, an intriguing story, and even a hidden sociopolitical connotation comparing Kane to the American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst all serve to make the film a classic work.
Even after Kane seems to have ended, the film continues to pack in a surprising amount of meaning. A shot of Kane’s old sled burning in his furnace, appears to be the ending shot following a wide, far pan across a field of junk. The scene cuts, however, to a shot of the mansion from outside that serves two purposes: first, it harkens back to the opening scene, bookending the film; and second, it highlights the dark black smoke pours from an upper chimney. It’s the remains of the sled. Kane’s hopes and dreams have literally done up in smoke. Even after this shot, the film isn’t finished until it can show a shot panning down a chain link fence to rest at the same No Trespassing sign that began the entire film for an entirely comprehensive bookend.