In the early 1930s and 1940s, cinema was completely different from anything we see today. The background of shots were out of focus, causing the audience to focus on just what was closest to the camera, all of the shots were short and choppy and there were few flashbacks or flashforwards, making movies painfully linear. However, 1941 changed the face of cinema forever with the release of one movie: “Citizen Kane.” It revolutionized the way movies have been made, and its impacts on cinema can be seen in nearly every movie in today’s world.
“Citizen Kane,” which turns 75 this year, is legendary director Orson Welles’ most well-known movie. The movie begins with a flashback of millionaire newspaper powerhouse Charles Foster Kane’s life. The flashback gives a general insight as to why Kane’s life was important, as he was the biggest name in newspaper and reporting. Unfortunately, Kane dies as soon as the movie opens — this is where the mystery that made the film so famous begins. There is mass confusion about Kane’s departing words. In Kane’s last moments, he is clutching a snowglobe and mutters one last word before he dies: “Rosebud.” The entire movie follows a reporter as he digs into the past of the Kane to find out who or what Rosebud is.
Despite various plot holes that have been found over the years, “Citizen Kane” is regarded by many as the best movie of all time. This praise is due to how it revolutionized the movie industry, changing the way movies were made and how stories were told in movies.
Welles’ cinematic masterpiece influenced movie making in many different ways. The two most substantial ways that it changed film was through deep focus photography and non-linear storytelling. Before “Citizen Kane” was made, movies were primarily shot in a fashion where what was taking place closest to the camera was clear and focused, where everything else in the shot was blurry. This made the movies seem unrealistic. With deep focus photography, everything is in focus, making everything clear and believable. “Citizen Kane” was the first movie to use this type of filming with success, and it’s currently the norm for most film.
The movie was told almost entirely through flashbacks as the reporter dug into Kane’s life, trying to find the meaning of “Rosebud.” It was the first big movie to ever use storytelling that wasn’t completely linear and since has revolutionized the way stories are told in film. If you take a look at most of the movies being made nowadays, they don’t take place in one certain point in time. Most movies jump around to different points in time to enhance the story and provide insight into the characters’ way of thought.
Those are just a couple of ways “Citizen Kane” revolutionized movies. It also introduced new camera angles, new types of acting, new types of sound — the list goes on for miles. Through all of these techniques, “Citizen Kane” introduced new ideas all at once that changed the movie industry forever. Movies today may not have the same quality if Orson Welles never took a risk and tried new ideas while making “Citizen Kane.” We have him to thank for the way we watch movies today.