Sunday, November 28, 2010

TODAY'S NUGGET: #4 WGA Script of All Time - Citizen Kane (1941)

[Quick Summary: After Charles Kane's death, newspaper reporters try to make sense out of his last words.]

I've never seen this movie or read this script before.

But now I can say I'm "one of those people" who understand Citizen Kane completely. 

I get why it's non-linear, & why Ebert has analyzed it at least 30 times (shot by shot), & what Rosebud means to Kane.

Actually, I'm lying.  (Except that I've read the script.)

The script is ambitious & the theme is enormous: It's about how Kane's hubris led to forcing everyone to bend to his will.  How do you do that visually?

It also attempts things that cause other scripts to fail, ex. The narrative jumps around in time. Kane is his own antagonist.  There are a lot of quick montages.

But it works here, but why?

I think it boils down to the #1 commonality in the top 5 scripts: The character is well-rounded & three dimensional.

When the narrative jumps around in time, it's ok because it deliberately focuses us on one of Kane's characteristics.  (In other words, we're driven by the character, not the plot.)

When Kane is his own antagonist, it's ok because the only person who could take Kane down is Kane himself.  (He gets in his own way all the time, not just for this film.)

When there are quick montages of the Enquirer building circulation, it isn't a cheat.  It's a visual of Kane's success, as well as the swelling of his head, which is vital to the story.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: This script is over the top...yet believable. 

That's tough. Really tough.

Citizen Kane (1941)
by Herman J. Mankiewicz & Orson Welles

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