(viewer)How PSN Work Together

(PSN is plot, story, and narrative)

Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane is a film that differentiates the ideas of plot, story, and narrative. The plot is the sequence of events that happen on screen as we see them. The plot revolves around the reporter trying to find out what “Rosebud” means and all that he learns as he does this. The narrative is how these are put together by portraying Kane’s life through a number of memories and flashbacks. Orson Welles challenges the traditional linear storytelling approach in this narration to allow for his story to be at the front of what the audience notices. For each flashback we get from a different person we not only get to see their side of the story and some more, but we also get to see the lasting impact that having a relationship with Kane has had on their life. This is part of the intricate narrative that allows the audience to make both explicit and implicit assumptions on who Kane was as a person. Therefore, the story encompasses the entire legacy and memory that we have of Kane. 

The part that I did not understand as I watched was how this choice of narrative and plot were able to work together. In each of the different perspectives there are certain scenes in which it would be impossible for the person telling their story to recall these events. For example, in Susan’s recollection, towards the end of it, we see Kane pick up the snow globe after she had left. That would be impossible for her to know and tell the reporter. Much of what we think of Kane comes from these specific scenarios and created some confusion for me. Does the reporter know this and if not, is it important that we know and he doesn’t?

One thought on “(viewer)How PSN Work Together

  1. Max, admittedly, this film was very confusing in the sense of its noncohesive narrative perspective. However, I believe this choice was intentional! Much like Kane’s unknowingness of how wealth would and wouldn’t change people’s perspective of him, we too, are trapped within a spiral of uncertainty. I also believe the stylistic choice of Orson Welles constantly using dissolves instead of cuts like cut-on-action or typical continuity editing, adds to this mixture of memories and overlapping perceptions. Within that scene you are referencing, it is one of the few, sporadically placed, moments where the viewer is given an omniscient or “all-knowing” positioning– perhaps Welles not only wants us to follow others perceptions of Kane but wants us to formulate our own as well, based on the overall narrative we are being presented with.

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