Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane
Orson Welles? cinematic classic, Citizen Kane, is a film that centers on a group of reporter?s investigation into the meaning of Charles Foster Kane?s last word, ?Rosebud.? Through their investigation of his last words, the team of reporters, is presented with an almost, but not quite, complete picture of ?Citizen? Kane?s life. By assuming that the man?s last word was as grandiose as his life, the reporters miss out on the bigger, more holistic picture, which is Charles Foster Kane?s life. The reporters? emphasis of attention on what turns out to be a small and trivial, although they never find that out, aspect of Kane?s life, make Citizen Kane a perfect example of the pitfalls of over-interpretation.
Utilizing flashbacks, Welles paints a varied and descriptive picture of Charles Kane?s life. Through interviews with people who were close to Charles Kane an extensive account of his life is presented. From his simple childhood, to Walter Parks Thatcher?s intervention and influence on his abrupt rise to success, to his ultimate downfall. Charles Foster Kane?s is a timeless story about the rise and fall of a man, in which there are many interpretations and lessons to be learned. One of these lessons is that to interpret a piece of art is a tough task, and without the proper restraints the pitfall of over-interpretation is often committed. Everything, especially art lends itself to interpretation, this is natural. However, when a piece of art, or even a mere aspect of that piece of art is over-interpreted, some of its meaning is lost.
Whenever something is broken down into its component parts and these component parts are analyzed and interpreted individually, some of their meaning is lost. For example, a doctor who specializes in the heart, a cardiologist, knows a whole lot about a small aspect of the greater whole, the human body. By studying the heart in isolation, with no connection to the rest of the body or its organs, some of the hearts ?meaning? is lost. Just saying that the ?heart pumps blood? is meaningless to the layperson ignorant of biology. The questions of why the heart pumps blood, what is blood, and how does the heart interact with other organs still remain. Not to mention more specific questions such as how other organs, such as teeth, which an orthodontist would be more likely to know, are effected by and affect the heart. A movement within psychology, known as Gestalt psychology, summed this holistic ideology up nicely with its tenet ?The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.?
It follows from this argument that if a piece of art is broken down into its component parts to be analyzed and interpreted, the form or structure of the artwork is ignored. By focusing one?s attention on specific and possibly trivial aspects of the piece of art?s content, the piece?s overall structure is not considered. In respect to Citizen Kane the over-interpretation of ?Rosebud,? leads the reporters to ignore the structure of Kane?s story. For example, Aristotle would argue that too much emphasis is placed on the content of the movie and not it?s form or structure. The gist of the art piece or movie, i.e. the classic story of rags to riches, is put on the back burner for analysis of a meaningful but small aspect of the piece. However symbolic ?Rosebud? is (i.e. Kane?s childhood, simple life, pre-Thatcher, etc.), the reporters? focus on it takes away from their attention on the whole life of Charles Foster Kane. In their interpretation of ?Rosebud? the reporters miss the bigger more important lessons to be learned.
It is a belief among many philosophers, including William Clifford, that the effect of something cannot be understood unless the cause is understood. For example, the effect of getting hit on the head with an apple was not truly understood by Newton until he learned and understood the falling apple?s cause, namely gravity. It follows from this line of thought that ?Rosebud? cannot be understood until Kane is understood. Therefore the following interpretation of Citizen Kane is a safe assumption: If someone took a genuine interest in Charles Foster Kane himself (cause), instead of blowing off the story of his life for the meaning of one hardly significant noun. Then just maybe they would have understood his last word ?Rosebud.? (effect)
The pitfalls of over-interpretation are numerous. Just a few of them have been listed and discussed here. In brief, over-interpretation or tedious analysis of art should be warned against, for they tend to take away from the meaning of the piece as a whole. By looking at art in isolation from its whole, in this case ?Rosebud? in relation to Citizen Kane, or in other cases, such as whole pieces of art in relation to the genera or movement of which they are part, something is lacking. It is also important to remember, when interpreting art, that the effect of the art, it?s meaning or gist, cannot be understood without first knowing it?s cause and structure.

Citizen Kane 8 of 10 on the basis of 2400 Review.