‘Citizen Kane’ Is a Labyrinth Without a Centre

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Full Essay Available for Free at: Popmatters.com

There are numerous ways of describing Citizen Kane as some form of labyrinth. What lies at the centre of this “tangle” is an intangible element that purposefully refuses to define itself.

“The point of the picture,” Welles has commented, “is not so much the solution of the problem as its presentation.” The “problem” is the shadow plot of the film, the search for “Rosebud” within the frightening centreless labyrinth of the film’s structure. Although “Rosebud” has been derided by Welles as “rather dollar-book Freud”, it’s this narrative thread that the audience, the reporter, and Kane himself follow in order to determine the meaning of Citizen Kane’s life. The three opening sections of the film (Death of Kane, News on the March, and the projection room) all commence interest in the enigmatic search, yet simultaneously undermine the search object.

The death scene is melodramatic, so that when the giant lips within the gothic castle speak, “Rosebud” takes on an almost surreal, mystic connotation matched by the skewed perspective of the broken snow globe. As a parody of the phrase, ‘The March of Time’, the ‘News on the March’ sequence reminds the audience that the “reel” is entirely subjective (a pun on the whole concept of the film). In the attempt to order a life that, ironically, had no structure, “Rosebud” becomes undermined…


The full 2,800 word version of this essay is published at Popmatters.com, where you can read the rest of the article for free.

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