In Gaslight made in 1944 by George Cukor, Paula Alquist, a young woman traumatised by the murder of her aunt, returns to her childhood home with her husband, Gregory Anton. The latter is none other than the aunt’s murderer, who returns to the crime scene to find the aunt’s jewels. His searching and manipulations drive Paula insane. Using themes that echo those in the great classics of literature such as Jane Eyre or in cinema such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca, Gaslight stages the deconstruction of the female character under the harmful influence of her husband and, more broadly, of those around her and her own home.
Together with precise work on light and on black-and-white, the variations in depth of field emphasise the changes in Paula and help to create a disquieting atmosphere, so as to underline the role played by the house and point up the power struggles between the characters. Also, the great depth of field often lets the viewer know more than the characters about what is at stake in the plot.