Are you trying to tell me I’m insane?
Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman) has lived in Europe since the death of her aunt. She moves back to her home in London, the house her aunt died in, with her new husband Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer). At first things are fine but slowly Paula starts to experience strange things. She loses things. She forgets things. She starts to develop fears. She appears to steal things and has no memory of the events. Her husband appears to be patient and loving but he slowly starts to be critical and loses his temper.
When Paula is alone and her husband is at work she hears noises and the lights from the gas jets appear to dim. She is losing her mind. The new maid Nancy (Angela Lansbury) appears to worsen the situation. Paula feels the maid hates her and is working against her. Paula is now paranoid. Only Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotton) from the police suspects the sinister truth.
“Gaslight” was released in 1944 and was directed by (George Cukor). It is referred to as a melodrama and a film noir. Although technically not a horror movie “Gaslight” has all the elements. A horror movie seeks to elicit fear in those that watch it. Its aim is to bring out the viewer’s nightmares, fear, or the terror of something unknown. Whether that fear is from a monster or person and bringing that fear into everyday life. “Gaslight” does that.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation. A form of brainwashing so to speak. The gaslighter seeks to sow the seeds of doubt in a person making them question their own sense of reality, memory, perception and ultimately sanity. You are basically driving someone who is perfectly normal to be insane. The term gaslighting came from the 1938 play “Gas Light” by Patrick Hamilton which in the United States was called “Angel Street”. The play became the movie “Gaslight”.
The reason for the abuse is minimal to the movie. It could be anything. The main plot of the movie is the abuse itself. And this is a classic example of emotional abuse. People who manipulate others do it very well. Ingrid Bergman is fantastic. Angela Lansbury is fantastic and Charles Boyer is a bastard so I guess that makes him fantastic too. The movie is fascinating as an expose of a human predator and their prey. People may wonder why Paula did not know that her husband was evil before she married him. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing predators can hide their true selves. Trust me I know.