Is There a Citizen Kane of Our Generation?

“What is the Citizen Kane of our generation?”

The answer is that there isn’t one. And there never will be. Citizen Kane is timeless.

I’ve seen Orson Welles’ groundbreaking classic multiple times, and each time I view it I find something new that strikes me. It changed everything about film. Citizen Kane was way ahead of its time and all movies since it have taken the film ideas and made them their own.

First of all, it was one of the first films to play with narrative structure. The storyline doesn’t follow a chronological order. Told almost entirely in flashback, the movie is presented from different character’s point of view discussing the past. Today we see films do this all the time. Reservoir Dogs, for instance, tells a nonlinear story. In 1941, however, it wasn’t so common.

The deep focus in Citizen Kane was also new and influenced following films. Rather than only having people or objects close to the camera in focus, the foreground and background were in focus. Welles’ film was the first to do this. For example, in the beginning of the film, a young Kane is playing in the background through a window, and his parents are near to the camera. In that frame, everything is clear and in focus. Modern viewers may think nothing of this when they watch it, but it was a big deal at the time.

Another new technique used by Welles was low-angles. Rather than using Hollywood sound stages that had wires and mics hanging above the actors and actresses. Welles decided to build full sets in order to show the ceiling. The camera would angle from the floor up, providing angle audiences had never experienced before.

There are so many other important aspects of the film. I could go into detail for pages. But, my point here is, how could there ever be a “Citizen Kane of our generation?” How could there ever be such an influential, groundbreaking film again?

Some people argue that The Godfather could rival Citizen Kane, but I disagree. How could a film that uses so many techniques from Kane possible rival it? Coppola’s film took so much from Welles’ film. Without Kane, there may not be a Godfather. (That’s probably an exaggeration, a film probably would have come along that played with non-linear stories and aging greatly with makeup.)

What I’m trying to articulate is: you cannot compare a modern film to a classic film that influenced all of the elements the modern one has. There isn’t a film “greater” than Citizen Kane, because without it, the “greater” film wouldn’t exist.

-B

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