A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gaslight is a classic suspense movie from 1944 in which Ingrid Bergman plays a woman who is being slowly driven insane by her manipulative husband. There are some very suspenseful scenes, but no violence or gore. Cigarette smoking occurs. There's some mild sexual innuendo concerning the social life of the maid (played by Angela Lansbury) and her relationship with the neighborhood police constable. The plot of the movie (based on a play) and the title led to the creation of the term "gaslighting," a word that has come into common usage, especially since 2016, in terms of politics and manipulation.
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What's the story?
In GASLIGHT, Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman) falls in love with Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), a musician, and once they are married, he persuades her to move into the house she lived in as a child, which has been closed since her aunt was murdered there. Gregory seems solicitous and caring, but he isolates Paula from everyone and makes her doubt herself and her sanity. He convinces her that she's always losing things, that she sees things that are not there, that she's unstable and untrustworthy. Every night, while Gregory is away, the gaslights flicker and Paula hears noises from the attic. Gregory persuades her that these are just her delusions. Just as Paula's fragile hold on reality is about to break, she's visited by Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotten) of Scotland Yard. With his help, she learns that Gregory is using an assumed name, that he's a thief, and that he had known her late aunt, a famous singer. Cameron and Paula team up to stop Gregory from pulling off his devious plan.
Is it any good?
George Cukor's classic tale of suspense is a good way to begin a conversation about vulnerability and manipulation. Gregory is almost able to drive Paula mad by making her think she's mad already. By cutting her off from any outside reality, by coolly denying what she sees and hears for herself, by telling her over and over again that she is helpless and incompetent, he begins to turn her into the person he tells her that she is. Families can use this movie to discuss how some in positions of power are often accused of trying to "gaslight" those who disagree with their policies, and other situations in which manipulative people try to "gaslight" those around them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the examples of vulnerability and manipulation depicted in this classic suspense movie.
What are some other examples of movie, TV, or book titles that later became popular terms to describe situations or behavior?
The term "gaslighting" has become more widely used since 2016. Why do you think that's the case, and what are some examples of "gaslighting" in current events?
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