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Notorious: Celebrating the Ingrid Bergman Centenary: “Gaslight” (1944) ★★★★★


Years after her aunt, a world famous singer, is murdered in her own home, Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman), a young woman moves back into the house with her new husband, Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer). Things get strange and scary after Paula finds a letter from an unknown man sent to her aunt two days before her murder… and on top of that, her husband has a secret he intends to keep from his wife, even if the price is driving her insane by fading the gaslight every night when he leaves the house…

It is always delightful seeing black-and-white movie set in dark atmosphere, where you along with its hero drown into madness and uncertainty brought by darkness. Gaslight, directed by George Cukor (The Fair Lady, The Philadelphia Story) begins with Paula, who leaves the mansion at a young age right after the murder occurs in the house she lived in. Many years after, she finds herself in the same house again, thinking that the new chapter of her life is about to begin with her husband, Gregory who seems to be fond of her. But there is no hidden secret in the film, as right from the beginning we find Gregory as a negative, calculated and dangerous man who has a secret he plans to keep hidden no matter what.

As the film progresses, the viewer can feel a well-crafted, masterfully staged intensity growing in every scene, where we see Charles Boyer’s character’s plan more vividly while Bergman’s Paula is going insane, thinking that things happening with her is just a figment of her insane imagination. Likewise, a young and attractive man, who used be a huge fan of murdered singer is suspicious that a young woman who moved in to the house is afraid to leave it. In order to investigate the matter, he opens the old and unsolved case, hoping that he finally will be able to resolve the biggest mystery and find the man who killed the woman years ago…

Cukor’s movie is brilliantly made and superbly acted by Bergman, who earned an Oscar for her truly amazing performance. In some scenes, where as it usually happens in old classic movies, the director allows the actors to transform themselves into the skin of characters they play by holding the camera as long as possible to emphasize their great acting ability. It is also quite unbelievable seeing how Bergman handles some emotionally difficult scenes where the camera is focused on her face. This is where we actually can stare at a timeless performance delivered by the great Ingrid Bergman.

In conclusion, this is a movie where everyone shines, even those who appear for just a second. That was probably where the main focus was aimed at by Cukor, to allow everyone in his movie to play their part the way that can be related by the viewer. This is how a 17 year old Angela Lansbury gets an Oscar Nomination for her supporting role, seemingly a very little one. Gaslight is chilling, ground-breaking psychological mystery lead by Bergman and will leave you on the edge of your seat even after so many years. It’s an unforgettable film which once again reminds us how the real movies used to be, and what is missing now… an ability to tell the story through an image and art that only a few can achieve now…

Screening time: Saturday, August 29, at 6:30 PM

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