What can I say about Citizen Kane that hasn’t already been said? It is one of the most, if not the most, studied and analyzed films ever. Its presence is so deeply ingrained into our popular culture that even before viewing the film, I knew what it was all about. The Simpsons references the movie so much, one of the writers claims that you can recreate the entire movie by editing all the Simpsons parodies together.
Quite an impressive feat for a 70-year old movie.
It’s probably not an understatement to claim that Citizen Kane is a “perfect film.” Every frame is carefully crafted and well thought out, every detail scrutinized by its creators. Its use of deep focus, dynamic camera movements, and unconventional camera placement has been talked about, discussed, and analyzed countless times (and what else can be said about these aspects, anyway?). The collaboration between director Orson Welles and cinematographer Gregg Toland was truly a match made in heaven. While the film isn’t really a trailblazer with the techniques it used, it is one of the first films to use all of them.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about some patterns in the film.
I must have seen this film around 10 separate times and one of the many patterns I’ve noticed is the use of STATUES. What’s up with the statues? All them statues! So many statues.
It’s mentioned numerous times throughout the film itself of Charlie Kane’s predilection for collecting statues. We see him sending statues to the office.
We see his palace filled with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of statues.
Even some of the characters begin to look like statues, especially Susan Alexander after her attempted suicide. Trophy wife, perhaps?
When the main narrative of the film begins, the deceased Mr. Thatcher is represented by his looming marble statue.
What can be said about these statues? They’re inanimate, cold, can’t hold a conversation too well. They’re also reflections of the past, representations of life. Something Charles Kane has been trying to retrieve, as his dying word “Rosebud” leads us to believe. Statues are life without life, perhaps a life surrogate or life once removed.
These statues, however, are not the only thing that represent this notion. Even after their deaths, the presence of Charles Foster Kane and Mr. Thatcher can be felt by their portraits in the office Mr. Bernstein now occupies.
These are just a few examples of ONE pattern I found in the film. I can only imagine how many others there are and how many examples can be given. Even the puzzles that Susan spends all her time with in lonely, desolate Xanadu are representations of life, but not life itself. In a way, these examples are self-reflexive of the film medium itself, as film shows life at 24 frames per second, but that life is only an illusion.