Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Gaslight (1944)

Gaslight (1944) ★★★★★ 4/5

Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman) is witness to the murder of her aunt at a very young age. Her aunt is a huge star of the stage, and young Paula admired everything about her aunt. After the murder, she leaves the house where her aunt raised her and never planned to go back. However these plans change when she marries and her husband Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer) convinces her that they should move back into the house. Although a great deal of time has passed, Paula still can not forget the murder and is somewhat weary of living in the house. To help calm her nerves, he hires a cook (Barbara Everest) and a maid (Angela Lansbury) to help Paula tend to the home.

As soon as they move into the house, Gregory's behavior becomes off putting. He becomes frantic when Paula finds old letters from her Aunt. He monitors Paula's every move. He starts to subject her to a cruel psychological torture. He hides things and convinces her she lost them. He moves things about. He breaks her confidence and spirit. The house is lit by gas lighting, and when gas is turned up in one room, it dims the lights in another room. When the house is empty and Paula is home alone, she hears footsteps above her and watches as the lights go dim, wondering who is in the house with her.

Eventually it becomes apparent that he may have had a hand in the murder of Paula's aunt, and that he is after the aunt's personal belongings. With the help of the police, Paula eventually learns the truth and turns the tables on Gregory.

Bergman and Lansbury are the mainframe to this film. Both play their characters with great passion. Bergman has several scenes where she goes from being happy and charismatic to emotionally tortured in just a few frames. She oozes emotions and does so vibrantly. There is an absolute emotional connection between the viewer and Bergman. Without saying a word, she can emulate her inner transformation. Lansbury is quite remarkable as well. She is a sly little tart in this movie. She dates men and walks through town on her own. She is not concerned about danger and not afraid to use sexuality. Like Bergman, Lansbury mastered the act of acting with facial expressions and body language. On screen, the two are not fond of each other and the disconnect between the two is played out on screen perfectly. There is a very natural feeling to their disapproval of each other on screen that heightens the story.

This movie is almost worth of 5 stars just based on their performances alone, however I could only give it 4 stars because there were some drawn out moments which slowed the movie down. I also had a really hard time with Boyer's accent. It was very thick and very hard to interpret at times. There were moments where I was concentrating so hard on what he was saying the the movie became more of a struggle to watch then it was to enjoy. I think perhaps these were the moments where I felt the movie dragged on a bit. Other then this, the film was quite likable. Watching Bergman's psychological breakdown was quite enthralling.

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