Friday, January 28, 2011

#43: Gaslight

Gaslight is a 1944 George Cukor thriller centered around the life of Paula, played by Ingrid Bergman. Story goes that at the time Bergman was being spoken with for Paula's role, producer David O Selznick was reluctant to loan her to MGM studios as they had insisted on top billing for Charles Boyer- the man who was to play the lead for the film. But since Ingrid Bergman really wanted to play the character, Selznick relented and let Charles have the top billing. This comes off a story that her daughter Pia Lindstorm narrates on an extra feature on the DVD.

Why I mention the story here is because without Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight probably wouldn't have been in the high league that film critics place the movie in. One can only imagine the heights of stardom that Ingrid would've been straddling in 1944 given that her last two releases before Gaslight were the neat For Whom the Bell Tolls and the timeless Casablanca. The fact that even after two iconic performances in these movies she pulled off a non-glam character going insane speaks volumes of her skills as an actress. So much so that as you've realized that I am yet to write anything beyond her. And I am not finished yet but let's come to the movie for now.

Gaslight is a taut thriller. It begins with a murder in mysterious circumstances and ends with the resolution 10 years later of who the killer was. While Charles Boyer plays husband to Paula,Joseph Cotten (Citizen Kane, Third Man) plays the role of a key supporting cast. The movie is a brooding and an ominous tale about a murder that takes place in a London community. Charles Boyer is perfect as the sly and the subtly dominant husband while Cotten plays the sincere fact-finder. The crisp screenplay is sprinkled with some haunting background score that accentuates the on-screen action. At just under two hours, the movie keeps you hooked to the all-pervading question of how is the killer going to get implicated.

Almost everything's right about the movie and yet Ingrid Bergman towers everything else. Her questioning glances, her suspicious body language and her childish mirth in some of those scenes should be used as examples in acting classes. Around the time she was preparing for the role, she also visited a mental institution to perfect some of those mannerisms. Well, let's just say, it paid off.

Gaslight is a solid murder mystery that doesn't go wrong. And there aren't too many murder mysteries one could say that about. But since I have anyway mentioned so much about Ingrid here, one more trivia couldn't hurt. When she was presented with the Oscar for Best Actress in 1945, she said, 'I hope in the times to come, I am worthy of this honor.'.

Fact is, she did more than just that !

Rating: 7.4/10