Tuesday, October 20, 2020

#2020PopCultureResolution - Gaslight


Director: George Cukor

Length:  114 minutes

Cast: Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Angela Lansbury

Release Date:  May 111944

Synopsis: After the death of her famous opera-singing aunt, Paula (Ingrid Bergman) is sent to study in Italy to become a great opera singer as well. While there, she falls in love with the charming Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer). The two return to London, and Paula begins to notice strange goings-on: missing pictures, strange footsteps in the night and gaslights that dim without being touched. As she fights to retain her sanity, her new husband's intentions come into question.


Gaslight: to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.

While many of us are familiar with the term gaslighting we may not be as familiar with its origins. The phrase originated thanks to the 1938 play Gas Light, of which Gaslight is an adaptation of, and its use of gas lights in tormenting its lead character. 

I picked Gaslight for October's movie because I figured it would fit the spooky season. It does in a way but is much more of a psychological thriller.

I could easily see this being a Hitchcock film. It has many of the same markers of a Hitchcock film along with a similar tone to some of his movies. It certainly has the suspense one associates with his movies.

The tone and atmosphere is owed to its pacing. Paula's confusion and doubt is gradual. It makes the situation a little more believable as a result. Her certainty in herself is chipped away a little at a time making her descent all the more heartbreaking.

Ingrid Bergman is captivating as Paula. She never overdoes her acting which would be easy to do with a role like this. She keeps it restrained but still manages to seem like someone coming unhinged. It is the perfect balance needed for this character.

Charles Boyer is chilling as Gregory. He plays it perfectly and while the plot is predictable it is made by these performances. Angela Lansbury was a welcome surprise and a delight in her role as Nancy.

The movie was infuriating at times because we are familiar with gaslighting and how it works. I wanted to scream at my television so many times while watching. I concede however that this probably would have been more revolutionary at the time the play was released. It is a mirror for those who cannot see they are being gaslit when it is happening. 

Overall a strong psychological thriller that I would recommend to any lovers of classic film that may not have seen it.  It is certainly essential viewing for those who enjoy Ingrid Bergman performances. 

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