Gaslighting [Tina Matzat, Germany, 2018]
Gaslighting is a domestic drama that situates itself within an abusive modern relationship, where one partner expects to share the perfect bond, whilst the other feels the need to cause arguments that amount to bullying, creating an intensely unhealthy environment. The atmosphere of manipulation and intimidation is what informs the film’s title. It comes to the point in the relationship where Victoria (the film’s protagonist) decides she cannot tolerate the way she is being treated and resolves to toughen up. Once she takes action in this manner, things begin to tip in her favour with her partner becoming increasingly sympathetic to her needs. But his kindness doesn’t last for long as he gradually continues to antagonise her.
The short film starts with a shot of the couple lying in bed. Victoria (played by Lara Marian) is in a good mood, but her partner Alexander (Nils Bauer) is not in the greatest spirits as he attempts to create drama out of something insignificant. Victoria appears to be a rather subservient girlfriend who just wants to make Alexander happy and for their relationship to flourish. An early shot where the camera peers into the kitchen from behind the door works well to signal the tensions that threaten to surface.
Later on, it is implied that Alexander is spending time with another woman, with Victoria calling his phone late at night to no response. She is left to sleep alone as her partner creeps into bed at an unsociable hour. The next morning they bicker because Alex is running five minutes late for a meeting, with the blame being firmly aimed at Victoria. It is at this point we understand the extent to which Alexander seems to consistently prioritise others above Victoria.
The compositions of the scenes are admirable; a scene where the couple argue at the top of the stairs plays out perfectly, as the use of a long hand-held shot further emphasises the increasing alienation between the characters. At times though, the sound mixing lets down the stronger aspects of the drama, becoming distracting in moments where the dialogue cannot always clearly be heard and, thus, losing a sense of what is going on.
Clumsy editing also makes certain moments feel confusing or incomplete, such as in the coffee shop scene where the barista recommends a book and allows Victoria to take it. It feels unnatural the way the music abruptly halts from the previous scene, for the character to walk straight into a coffee shop to pick out a book. Surely she would at least ask for a coffee first?
The set design (created by Tina Matzat) really helps the story come to life, and the score (composed by Nils Bauer) is beautifully developed, the piano melody easy on the ears and fitting perfectly with the mood of the film. It is very inspiring to see the multiple capabilities of the director and cast as they handle creative production elements in addition to their performing roles.
Gaslighting is a perfect example of how beneficial teamwork can be within an indie production setting, and also demonstrates proof of a genuine interest and passion toward the filmmaking craft.
‘Gaslighting’ was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2018.