Blast From the Past: Citizen Kane

by Kevin Hopkins ’22

Source: Art.com

Published Oct. 18th, 2020

Considered to be one of the most influential films in the history of American Cinema, 1941s Citizen Kane tells the tale of the reclusive Charles Foster Kane and his somber life story. In what can only be described as his Magnum Opus, Orson Welles plays the role of the central character while also directing and producing the film offscreen. While Citizen Kane is considered to be a classic of the silver screen by today’s standards, the film was originally dogged by controversy when released in mid-1941. Many theaters were unwilling to show the film. The controversy stemmed from the portrayal of the main character as a kooky News-magnate and his similarity to William Randolph Hurst, who owned many of the influential newspapers of the 1940s.    

When a reporter is assigned to unravel the mystery behind newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane’s last words, his investigation gradually shows the mysterious life of a man who rose from nothing to touch the hearts and minds of all Americans. The viewer comes to understand the tragic childhood Kane lived from being orphaned at a young age and becoming very lonely. Through his wit and wisdom, Kane is able to amass a sizable fortune through his successful newspaper corporation which he turns from a small enterprise into the largest newspaper conglomerate in the country by fighting for the “working man’s interest”. Although Kane is able to win praise from large swathes of the country, he is unable to find true happiness and eventually dies alone in his private estate, Xanadu. The reporter is unable to discover the true meaning behind Kane’s last word and is left baffled. In the final scene of the film, the viewer comes to understand the true meaning behind “Rosebud” and its relation with all who watches.

Although the film is nearly 80 years old, many of the messages in the story are still relevant in today’s society. Media moguls like Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch, both owners of large media enterprises dictate the news coverage of the day and more importantly what events or issues are not covered. However, in the age of the internet, smaller media endeavors have risen to challenge the large institutions and attempt to fight for the “common man”. The film also questions the power of money and how it corrupts the characters of the film, driving them into isolation. Many prominent figures of the last century who experienced success at a young age similar to the main character of this tale, were corrupted by the power of money and driven into permanent isolation.

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