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    Where to watch: Netflix

    Time: 131 min

    Mank is not for everyone. Directed by industry veteran David Fincher, it is a great movie, but you can only truly comprehend it, if you have seen Citizen Kane and know at least some of the history behind it. It took me a few days to finish and I kept rewatching scenes and reading about the real story, in order to fully understand all the references and dialogues. If you go into this movie without any background knowledge, you might have a hard time since it jumps back and forth in time and introduces a lot of names and characters, whose role will only become clear later on. I recommend you watch it with your full attention and concentration.

    You cannot capture a man’s entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one.

    Herman Mankiewicz

    The movie tells the story of Citizen Kane’s screenplay writer Herman J. Mankiewicz. Mank is an alcoholic and gambler with an undeniable charm and talent for words. Using his wit, he manages to impress William Hearst, an American businessman and newspaper tycoon, who also funds the studio Mank works for, MGM. William is also the main inspiration for the character of Charles Foster Kane and the movie shows us how that came to be.

    In the inner circle of rich, high class Hollywood stars and producers, Mank is treated as a “court jester”, a joker, who always manages to make a funny, yet edgy comment and sometimes makes a fool of himself. Surrounded by a Hollywood elite with predominantly right wing views, Mank delivers profound social and political commentary. His deep sense of morality and great sense of humour guide him through complex relationships and events. Mank is an example of a man, who seemingly has lost his way, but is anchored by his beliefs and is ready to sacrifice his career for them. 

    Gary Oldman does a wonderful job of bringing life to the late writer and proves yet again how skilled of an actor he is. Amanda Seyfried’s Marion Davies is also worth a mention as she brings charm and cuteness to every scene she is in. 

    In socialism, everyone shares the wealth. In communism, everyone shares the poverty.

    Herman Mankiewicz

    The main conflict in the film revolves around sociopolitical themes that are more than relevant today and it is sad to see that not much has changed in nearly 100 years. Poverty, growing inequality and the misconception of socialist ideas, is something that plagues American society today as much as it did back in the 1930s. MGM, the movie studio, funded by William Herst, produces a slate of smear films against the democratic candidate for governor of California, Upton Sinclair. What is in essence fake news, flips the election in favour of the republican candidate. This immoral use of the medium serves as a motivation for Mank to make a move against Herst and partner with Orson Welles to create Citizen Kane in an attempt to expose the corruption.

    This is a business where the buyer gets nothing for his money but a memory. What he bought still belongs to the man who sold it. That’s the real magic of the movies.

    Louis B. Mayer

    Visually the movie is a masterpiece, perfectly capturing the style and look of the era. Lighting and high dynamic range are used like a painter’s brush to highlight specific parts of the scene and guide the viewer’s attention. The use of light rays throughout the movie was extremely impressive and something I have rarely seen done to this extent – it creates a sense of mystery, a dream-like painting from forgotten times. The soundtrack from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Nine Inch Nails) fits the movie perfectly and creates a cosy, yet mysterious vibe, reminiscent of noir detective movies from the era. It’s a great listen on Spotify as well.

    In summary, Mank offers an impression of the life of a little known writer and reveals some of the mystery behind the making of Citizen Kane. For many years it was thought that Orson Welles was the sole creative genius behind the movie, but as is often the case, reality tends to be a bit more interesting than that. With its political undertone, witty dialogue and dazzling performances, Mank is worth a watch, but make sure you inform yourself about the history behind it, so that you can fully enjoy it!