Feature: Philosophers on film: Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane is a big film with a big reputation. Inevitably some will question whether it is worth the tag of “best film ever”. For me I think it is definitely up there for a reason and with recent events if anything it has become more relevant than ever.
This film was being presented as part of the regular Philosophers on film series hosted at Cinema City by film professor Dr Vincent M. Gaine. Previous films have included everything from Ghost In The Shell to Frozen, with debates on identity, feminism and so much more in Q & A after.
Generally speaking reviews focus on Orson Welles and rightly so. The man revolutionised theatre, radio and film. But sometimes reviews can make Citizen Kane seem like an incredibly well shot but ultimately distant or emotionally cold experience and this is simply not true.
For a start it’s surprisingly funny. Orson Welles’ chemistry with Joseph Cotten (that was also amazing in The Third Man) is brilliant alongside a script co-written by Joseph Mankiewicz that includes dry wit, ironic imagery and the occasional silly slapstick and double take.
I have lost count how many times I’ve watched this but every time I learn something new and spot something I hadn’t considered before. In this case the supporting cast became more prominent (not that this is a slight on Welles who transforms from magnetic and charming young go-getter to a bitter and isolated megalomaniac).
Yes everyone talks about the big “twist” but as we found out in the discussion it’s a small part. For me the story is a tragedy about a man desperate for love who in the pursuit of it destroys everyone and everything around him.
What then further complicates this is the fact that we never actually find out anything from the central character himself. This inevitably leads to a debate about what we know and what we can interpret it.
This may seem frustrating or abstract but it really isn’t. People talked about parallels in the modern world to Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump and even Michael Jackson. In short while it may have been made in 1941 it is something that is relevant today and I would argue this is what makes it a truly timeless classic that is worth uncovering, watching and most crucially worth discussing.