Jackson, Tony. "Writing, Orality, Cinema: The ‘Story’ of Citizen Kane." Narrative Vol. 16, No. 1 (January, 2008).
This piece by Tony Jackson asserts that the nature of a film is represented through it’s form on screen, so in order to find meaning in the film as a whole, one must examine it’s defining elements. In particular, Jackson emphasizes the use of the written word and the spoken word in Citizen Kane. He describes an underlying conflict in the film between the written word, represented by Kane’s newspaper empire, and the spoken word, as emphasized by the newsreel Rawlston and Thompson are creating. The entire film, in a sense, is Thompson’s quest to discover the meaning of ‘Rosebud’ so that the newsreel and spoken word can provide viewers with something that the written word of the newspaper cannot.
Against the backdrop of this conflict, the fact that the actual speaking of the word ‘Rosebud’ is so emphasized indicates the weight that it carries in the film. Jackson examines several elements that help to define it, and the power of the spoken word, as important. First, the act of speaking is highlighted; the camera zooms incredibly close up on Kane’s lips as he mumbles the syllables of ‘Rosebud’. This accomplishes two things: it isolates the act of speaking from any of his other bodily actions; and it keeps other people and their response to Kane’s word out of the shot. In doing so, the audience is left with just the spoken word, with no visual aides to help them understand or interpret it. The physical speaking of the word becomes what is important. Second, the description of ‘Rosebud’ as Kane’s “dying words” gives it a power unique to spoken word. As this was dying, they retained only enough energy to control their speech, and with these words they summed up their life.
In the context of my thesis, this article serves as a setting-off point. The orality of the depiction of ‘Rosebud’ makes it stand out against the backdrop of the world of the written word, and emphasizes it’s incredible importance in the film Citizen Kane. Yet, it is still not clear what exactly this orality is emphasizing. This article helps support the notion that the mystery of ‘Rosebud’ is an important one to explore.