Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight

Ingrid Bergman received her second Oscar nomination for playin Paula Alquist Anton in George Cukor's Best Picture nominated movie, Gaslight. It was pretty sure, in my opinion, that Ingrid Bergman would win her first Oscar in 1944. She had just lost the previous year to her good friend Jennifer Jones, she didn't get nominated for Casablanca plus she had a very Oscary role. I think her win was inevitable though not an easy one as Barbara Stanwyck must have given her some tough competition.

I used to be a great fan of Gaslight. Now, I'm not even though I really liked it this time, too. It's a very entertaining psychological thriller, which has a lot of suspense though it's not even close to Hitchcock despite the fact that mistake this movie for Notorious (in which Bergman gives her best performance besides Autumn Sonata). I think George Cukor could have received an Oscar nomination as his direction was quite great. Charles Boyer deserved the nomination though I wouldn't give him a win. I really love Angela Lansbury and the thought that she did not get the Oscar for The Manchurian Candidate makes me sick (she was the victim of a category fraud of Patty Duke). Still, she doesn't do much in Gaslight.

Ingrid Bergman is an actress who is so underappreciated nowadays and many say that she's too obvious as an actress. In addition to the fact that I hate the term "obvious actress", I think it's really untrue. Ingrid Bergman was a fantastic performer who relied completely on her emotions (like Anna Magnani but in a different way). She may not calculate her teardrops per second like Meryl Streep does but Ingrid always has such an effect on me. Even in her most hated performances (For Whom the Bell Tolls and Joan of Arc) there's something that I really admire.

The same thing is the case with Ingrid's performance as Paula Alquist Anton in Gaslight. However, this is not a typical Ingrid Bergman performance that I love. Or to pu it more accurately: this is not what I love Ingrid Bergman for. I actually prefer her works made in the seventies and the sixties to her movies in the fourties. That has nothing to do with Gaslight as it's really a fantastic achievement of hers.

The role of Paula seems to be tailor made for Ingrid Bergman as she's typically a quietly suffering woman that Bergman could play so well (although her casting nowadays seems obvious, she wasn't the first choice to play Paula). Paula starts out as a very naive young girl who falls for a man she barely knows. She seems to be haunted by the memory of her dead aunt and every time she's mentioned (or even London), Palua begins to sob or she has a terrified expression on her face. Bergman so amazingly showed the effects of this traumatic even on Paula. Every expression on her face is just perfect. She could have ruined Paula very easily but somehow, she was able to keep the right balance.

However, the most curcial thing about this movie was the great co-operation between the lead actors. Bergman's chemistry with Charles Boyer is just excellent. They work so well together, their scenes, their interactions are so brilliant. They really had to support each other as neither of the roles was really active and they mostly had to react to each other. It's mostly Boyer who takes the initiative but Bergman is also flawless in their scenes. Ingrid is just wonderful at reacting to the mental torture that she suffers. There's a mindblowing scene where they go to The Tower of London and they are looking at the crown jewels. Charles Boyer's diabolique presence is the polar opposite of Ingrid's angelic innocence and therefore they are so great together.

However, Ingrid is the greatest when Boyer says that they will go the the theatre and Ingrid starts dancing and then Boyer interrupts her. That instant change on Ingrid's face from fierce exhiliration to shock and horror is the work of a genious: it comes so much from Ingrid's great instincts and it's terrifying in its unexpectedness. Paula is gradually losing her mind and we feel that Ingrid goes deeper and deeper into Paula's head. Also, Ingrid is quite brilliant in the scenes with Angela Lansbury. Paula is terrified of her own maid and the fear Ingrid shows towards this girl is so chilling. Plus, Ingrid also has great chemistry with Joseph Cotten though their scenes are not the best ones of the movie and they feel a bit too "Hollywood" to me.

So, I must say that my choice is not going to be an easy one. Ingrid Bergman gives a fabulous, extremely memorable performance as Paula a terrified woman on the edge of a total nervous breakdown. Although this is not the type of Bergman's performance that I love obsessedly, I would feel ashamed if I didn't praise her for this work of hers as much as I can. Ingrid's portrayal of this woman is brilliant and really haunting.
No official predictions now! Making The Final Conclusion will be the toughest one ever and I still feel bad for the ones I won't make my winner. Oh, it's gonna be tough but a lot of fun, I'm sure. :) So, the results come tomorrow.

What do you think?


Louis Morgan said...

I think she was quite good, and her best performance of hers that I have seen.

Anonymous said...

I'm so excited to watch this performance. I've been reading a biography on Ingrid (even though the only film of hers I've seen is Casablanca), and find her an incredibly interesting actress.

Mike said...

Ingrid Bergman , in my opinion , She was Most beautiful woman that grace silver screen with her talent.