A Missing Piece in the Jigsaw Puzzle

Film Review, "Citizen Kane" by Sylvia Lim
Published : WritersCafe.org



Citizen Kane is a classic film, directed by Orson Welles in 1941. It was nominated for nine academy awards and won for best screenplay. It started with a mysterious opening line,“Rosebud.” mentioned by the main character, Charles Foster Kane before he died. In searching for the meaning of Kane's last word, Thompson, a young journalist, ended up with searching through the secret parts of his life. The movie is told through flashbacks, each one done from different point of view. As a journalist who interviewed all the characters, Thompson gathered the facts one by one like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle.


Welles demonstrated his strong understanding of issues in journalism in this film.  Lord Northcliffe, The London Times newspaper owner, once said, “Journalism is a profession whose business it is to explain to others what it personally does not understand.” The statement is very much reflected in this movie. In one of the scenes, Thompson's chief editor asked his journalists the question about Kane that no newspapers had managed to answer, “Enough to tell what a man did, but tell me who he was?”  Many newspapers just put Kane’s death as their headline without really understanding about him. The editor also inadvertently mentioned the missing puzzle piece. “Rosebud, dead or alive.”

Charles Foster Kane, played by Orson wells was a unique character. At the beginning he was very idealistic in his work as a journalist but gradually he was lured into a ruthless pursuit of power. As the director and screenplay writer, Welles made use of dramatic cinematography to show the audience what the newspapers empire looked like. The scene of the declaration of principles started with a close focus on the editorial, and then zoomed out to show thousands of copies of newspapers. When Kane celebrated his newspapers success, the camera placed the conversation between Jet Leland and Mr. Bernstein at the foreground, with Kane dancing with girls in the background.

With regard to the cinematography, Gregg Toland did a very good job in showing visual symbolism. He combined a photographic setting with the staging positions of the characters and made it looked very artistic. When Susan, Kane’s second wife was putting puzzles together, it not only showed a boring activity in a luxury palace, but also symbolized the missing pieces of Kane's life which Thompson was searching for, “rosebud.”

So, what is the “rosebud?” Line “rosebud” drove a young journalist to discover the truth. In the end, the story itself is not only about Kane, but also about what Thompson, a young journalist learned from the dark side of a newspaper owner’s life.

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