Sunday, 4 March 2018

Citizen Kane and Rosebud

Watched Citizen Kane again the other day. 
1/ Citizen Kane, to me, is about 2 main things: 
- It’s about the rise and fall of Charles Foster Kane the newspaper tycoon, a great American man, about American history and politics, about the influence of media, about ambition and power and corruption… 
- It’s about the private Kane, about a man who got everything he wanted and lost it all, about the helplessness of a powerful man and loneliness of a great man who is loved by the public but not by anyone close to him, about his need and demand for love when he himself doesn’t know how to love, about selfishness and narcissism and a big ego, about control, about loss, about a life of failures, about his collection of stuff he can buy to make up for things his money can’t buy… 
- It’s also about the multifacetedness of a human being, and the inability to really know somebody. 
That is why it’s such a great film. Citizen Kane is perfect in form and techniques, and has influenced generations of filmmakers, but it’s a great film in itself, especially as an examination of a character. 
2/ Have you ever wondered what the film would be like, as a standard biopic instead of a fragmented story told by multiple narrators, none of whom has access to Kane’s private thoughts? 
3/ The only time we see his soft, private side is when Kane meets Susan (who later becomes his 2nd wife) the 1st time. 
4/ Everyone knows what Rosebud is, but what does it mean? A symbol of the loss of childhood and innocence, perhaps. Or simply a thing that signifies the moment that changed his life completely. 
5/ The 1st time Kane meets Susan, there is a snow globe on her desk. Perhaps Kane, when saying “Rosebud”, subconsciously puts together the 2 moments—the last time he’s a kid and with his family, and the only time he’s liked for who really is instead of his public image of Charles Foster Kane. 
In addition, he’s on the way to get his mother’s belongings. He himself says “in search of my youth”. 
6/ Or perhaps Rosebud means nothing and explains nothing—Rosebud is no more than a plot device, for the search for the real Kane. 
7/ Does anyone else notice that the patterns on the doors at Xanadu look like jigsaw puzzles? 
8/ According to the newsreel, 2 years after the divorce, Kane’s 1st wife dies in a motor accident with their son. What is the significance? Why is it never mentioned again? How does it affect Kane? 
9/ Another theory is that in his deathbed, when uttering “Rosebud”, Kane doesn’t think of himself, but his lost son.


  1. Welles himself, in a long interview in the early 80s for the BBC arts programme "Arena", dismissed "Rosebud" as "dollar book Freud". I agree. It's a good mechanism to hold the different narratives together, but the revelation of what Rosebud is is utterly unnecessary, and makes too explicit what should have remained vague and elusive. "Dollar book Freud" is a good summary.

  2. Loss of childhood innocence.

    Never take anything Welles says at face value. Have you not seen F for Fake?


  3. My personal view is actually 6, that it's a plot device.
    I haven't seen F for Fake, but I have it and will watch it.