In 2022, internet searches for the term ‘gaslighting’ spiked by nearly 2000 percent, prompting dictionary company Merriam-Webster to declare it Word of the Year. A form of psychological abuse wherein a victim is manipulated into doubting their own experiences, the now commonplace notion of gaslighting derives from George Cukor’s classic 1944 drama, Gaslight.

The film follows newlywed Paula (Ingrid Bergman), who fears for her own sanity as her malicious husband Gregory (Charles Boyer) gradually manipulates her into believing that strange occurrences at home—including the dimming of the film’s titular gaslights—are all simply figments of her imagination. Detective Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotten), investigating the unsolved murder of Paula’s opera singer aunt, notices her anxious behavior and begins to suspect foul play. A masterful thriller suffused with dark, angular shadows and themes of psychic trauma, Gaslight anticipates the wave of noirish dramas that would sweep Hollywood in the post-WWII years.

Shelley Stamp (Film & Digital Media, UC Santa Cruz) will join moderator Kelsey Moore (Film and Media Studies, UCSB) for a post-screening discussion of Gaslight.

Event Details

  • Karyn Kessler
  • Claire Wilhelm-Safian

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