Citizen Kane: What Made It the Greatest Film Ever Made in the U.S.

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A film is essentially a moving picture. The earliest films were created around 1895. Since then, films have developed with the discovery of different technology. Such technology is also used in preserving old, historical films through proper media storage solutions.

With thousands of films created over the years, some may be left forgotten, while others are so exceptional that they leave a mark among viewers. In the U.S., the American Film Institute lists the 100 best American films of all time. The American Film Institute deemed Citizen Kane the greatest American film of all time, immediately followed by Casablanca and The Godfather.

This article dissects the film Citizen Kane and figures out why it has been deemed the best film shown and created in American history.

Citizen Kane: Synopsis

Directed by and starring Orson Welles, Citizen Kane revolves around a newspaper mogul Charles Foster Kane, who, in his last breath, uttered a curiosity-striking word: rosebud. To unearth the meaning behind Kane’s final words, reporter Jerry Thompson discovers Kane’s life story.

Thompson meets people who existed in Kane’s life, including his adoptive father, a close friend, and an ex-wife. But after these several interviews, Thompson admits that he failed in discovering the meaning behind Kane’s last word. He concludes that maybe one word is not enough to sum up a person’s life.

But at the end of the film, while all of Kane’s properties are being burned in a furnace, the camera focuses on a sled Kane used when he was a child before being separated from his wife. In the sled, the word “rosebud” is inscribed.

Why It Deserves the Top Spot

The USA Today reports that one of the greatest Oscar snubs in history was Citizen Kane and its failure to win the best picture. Citizen Kane lost against the film How Green Was My Valley which is comparably less popular than the former. But across the U.S. and Europe, critics still say that Citizen Kane is the number one film of all time.


Issues and hype surrounding the film

Even before its release in 1941, Citizen Kane was highly anticipated by many critics and views. This is partly because of Orson Welles’s existing popularity; at 23, he already had a cover in the highly popular Time magazine. The film also earned controversy before its release because William Randolph Hearst, a media tycoon himself, felt like the film’s main character resembled him.

Hearst, therefore, waged war against the film and made every effort to stop the film from being released. But instead of stopping it, his efforts only added to the film’s popularity and hype. After its release, the film received several critical acclaim, including the Best Picture from the New York Film Critics Circle; however, the film didn’t really succeed in terms of financial gains.

But despite its failure in America during that time, Europeans embraced the film as it reached the continent in 1946. The film easily became a phenomenon in France, Italy, and Austria. As France and the rest of Europe recognized the film’s brilliance, the rest of the world followed.

The masterpiece formed through cinematic elements

Aside from the film’s initial hype, its brilliant script really makes the film stand out. Mixed with outstanding visuals, cinematography, and sound, the film is nothing less than a masterpiece. Additionally, the film was executed with a limited budget, yet it still features a certain feeling of extravagance.

Also, the film set itself above previous existing films with themes usually linked to the war. The film has a fresh and cynical take on the world at the time. It talks about how a man who had nothing can build a massive empire, but power and money eventually corrupt a man’s soul.

New directors were born from this astonishing film. These directors greatly admired Citizen Kane and led them to create films with similar themes. With the theme of demonstration and attack on power, films such as The Godfather, Scarface, and Goodfellas were produced.

Aside from its great theme, Citizen Kane is a film that introduces new cinematic techniques. These techniques have been a template for most directors in the industry.

Funnily enough, Orson Welles admitted that the discovery and invention of these new techniques are rooted in his lack of experience in cinema making. He did not know about the conventions of cinema making; therefore, he did not care about breaking any rules.

Welles invented his own cinematic language: how a film is edited, how it looks, and how a story must be told. His own techniques, without fear of boundaries, may just be the real reason Citizen Kane remains America’s greatest film until today.

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