When the Lights Dim: Review of Gaslight (1944)

Ifeanacho MaryAnn
6 min readAug 27, 2021

Gaslight (1944) begins with Paula (Ingrid Bergman) moving to Italy to study music under Signore Guardi following the murder of her aunt, Alice Alquist, a world-famous opera singer. Alice was killed in her home, Number 9 Thornton Square, London. Her corpse was discovered in front of the fireplace by her distraught niece. Following a whirlwind romance ten years later, beautiful Paula returns to London with her dashing but oily husband, Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), a pianist, and more. In London, they take up residence in the same house where Paula’s aunt was murdered, much to Paula’s discomfort. Gregory assures her with a kiss that they would soon fill the dreary house with happy memories.

In a mentally draining turn of events, Gregory, using a series of carefully thought out tricks, makes his wife question her sanity and the core of her identity. But Paula is just a footnote in Gregory’s shiny plans.

Analysis and Themes

Written by Patrick Hamilton and directed by George Cukor, Gaslight (1994) was many years ahead of its time. With themes that are universal and still relevant today, the movie is timeless and captivating. The psychological term, “Gaslighting” is eponymous with the movie. It refers to any behavior that attempts to distort a person’s perception and reality to undermine their sanity.

The Mental Strings of a Puppet Master

The major themes of Gaslight (1944) are gaslighting, emotional abuse, and manipulation. For lack of a better word, Gregory Anton is a mind fuck. He implements many tricks to make Paula doubt her sanity, notable among which is making the gaslights go dim each night and making Paula think she was imagining it. Everyone focuses on the gas lights (and they should!) and how their fluctuating brightness is the point where Paula thinks she really had a few screws loose. However, this trick is just the cherry on top of the toxic cake. Gregory starts…

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Ifeanacho MaryAnn

Storyteller, Long Distance Cat Mom. A quiet voice rambling in an isolated corner of the internet. I write on psychology, films, books and my random thoughts