Last night my boyfriend was trying to show me a Victorian sci-fi miniatures game called G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. When he typed the acronymn into Google, however, the first page was filled with hits from a 1944 movie of the same name. It struck me as odd that I had never thought to write about it.
Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotten, is a wonderful thriller that takes a deep look at Victorian gender roles in the light of an unsolved murder and the mystery of the dimming gaslights in a Victorian home. Ingrid Bergman plays Paula, a woman who returns to her childhood home with her new husband Gregory (Charles Boyer) years after her aunt was murdered there. But as the new couple settles into their new home, strange incidents happen to intrude on their happiness. At first it seems like Paula has become absentminded when a brooch that her husband gave her goes missing. But when pictures are misplaced and even her husband's pocket watch apparently taken from its chain and discovered in Paula's handbag as if taken in a kleptomaniac act, it appears to her that she is going mad. With each incident her husband treats her more and more like a helpless child, to which she reacts by acting more and more like one.
And then there are those footsteps in the locked attic that no one else hears and the gaslight that dims at night that no one else seems to notice. Are these just the fabrications of a madwoman, or is there a sinister plot in place meant to drive Paula to the point of hysteria and madness?
This movie is an exaggerated example of extreme Victorian gender roles. Gregory is a powerful, controlling male who appears perfectly rational and correct in all he does to his poor, tortured wife- the childlike woman who finds herself sinking deeper and deeper into madness with every suspicious look of her husband, every questioning of his acts, every time she tries to break free of his control over her. Here's a clip from the movie that I think adequately shows how Paula's husband treats her like a child, and how she is so psychologically damaged by him that she no longer reacts to each problem as an adult woman normally would.
I strongly recommend this movie to anyone who loves good thrillers.