Corridor of Mirrors: Portrait of a Covert Narcissist

Last night, I watched a 1948 British classic, “Corridor of Mirrors.” I started by looking on Kanopy, at various films and kept seeing “psychological” thriller or mental health issues and I said to myself “not in the mood for psychology tonight.” Then I see this film and it says it is about a man who thinks this woman is his reincarnated lover from 400 years ago. Sounded intriguing to me and I set about to watch it. The sound was horrible and I had to re-start it three times and finally, put on closed captioning so I knew what they were saying. I was a little confused with the storyline in the beginning too, but kept at it. Then, we get to the character Veronica, who “is allowed” to live in the basement of the mansion. It is where the main male lead, Paul, lives in. Veronica spells out his personality, almost like she is giving the description of a covert narcissist. I thought to myself, “Oh, well now, I have to sit up straight and pay more attention to this storyline.” I just can’t get away from my specialization at the office. And, I knew this was going to be a film I would be talking up to my clients. And, it is an amazing film. It is different from Gaslight, which is focused on the title. This film, bares a lot more explanation to the average person. So, here we go.

The characters: Paul, is a single man who lives in a mansion. We have no idea where he gets his money from, though I believe they (the people at the club) said he was an art or theater critic. Mifanwy, is a very strong Welsh woman, who also comes from money, and what appears to be a healthy household with a good relationship to her father (whom she called by his name). She is immediately portrayed as an independent, no-nonsense, healthy woman who enjoys dangling her suitors – to keep them interested; and they are. She isn’t the type to attract a covert narcissist, but he did his damnedest to suck her in. Veronica is in a toxic bond with Paul. He found her in Italy, on one of his trips and allowed her to stay in the basement – when he was bored with her. She stays there and tells her story to all the women who come and go from Paul’s life. She wants to warn them so they won’t be like her.

The movie is about a man, Paul, who recognizes Mifanwy in a nightclub one night, as being the woman in a painting he purchased, while touring Italy. He is immediately captivated by this and finding out that her black hair isn’t from her Welsh ancestors, but her mother’s Italian heritage. He dances with her one dance and then disappears. This causes Mifanwy to get interested. Usually she does the escape act. She meets up with him another night, when she decides to walk home from the club. He invites her to his mansion to see how he lives. She goes there and is even more intrigued. She will continue to invite herself over and eventually learns of the corridor of mirrors with the dresses and jewelry behind it. He continues to pursue her and sex is never a part of the question. Eventually she will learn about Veronica and the reincarnation from the painting he shows her one day.

The covert narcissist comes out with Paul’s lack of friends, he is well-known, in his career, but doesn’t really socialize with anyone. He is an introvert living alone in a mysterious lifestyle. Mifanwy invites herself into his house over and over again and eventually goes uninvited. The covert narcissist lures women in with their charms. In this case, he began to love bomb her with the dresses and jewelry. We learn from Veronica, mid-way through, that women have come and gone from this house and, after love bombing them for a certain amount of time, he gets bored with them, and tosses them aside. We will learn at the end of the movie, that she is warning them for her own self-obsession. She is protecting her basement space and doesn’t want anyone else to move into her territory. And, she is in love with Paul. She has been down there for years and has never gone out of the home. Mifanwy guesses she is 50 years old but she states that sadly, she is only 30. The aging process has occurred from this trauma bond which has destroyed her image from a broken heart. She will never win Paul back so she has given up on herself.

Paul also has a chauffeur, but otherwise these two and a white cat (that belongs to Veronica) are all that lives in this elaborately decorated mansion, with Paul. The corridor of mirrors is a side note that is very symbolic of the covert or overt narcissist. The mirrors hide the “jewels” or the objects of a woman’s desire that are used to love bomb these women. The mirrors symbolize admiring oneself or taking the time to see oneself. It is important to note that Paul never looks in the mirror. The narcissist avoids self-reflection or anything that has to do with having an awareness of anything other then himself and his women, for the amount of time he desires them. When they look in the mirror, he is looking at them, not himself. He is mirroring them.

Eventually, Paul throws a Venetian party (where they were reincarnated from) and there is a point where Mifanwy is led to the room with the portrait – of her, in her past life. She is astounded of the likeness and immediately assumes that he painted it himself. That is because she is wearing a dressing gown, at this point, that matches the one in the painting. He tells her that he bought it in Italy and learned of their love story from 400 years ago. Mifanwy, ditches the party after they argue.

By the time of the party, Mifanwy has become bored with Paul but continues dangling him along because of the fun she is having with the dress up parties. She has, by now, spent the night and is amazed that he does not come to her sexually – at all. He has kissed her neck or grazed her neck at one point but they have never even kissed (on screen) and it appears this hasn’t happened either. You can see she is disappointed but, at the same time, doesn’t really care and goes to sleep. Narcissists are generally the type to follow your lead, unless they are interested in sexually exploiting you in some way. He may have indulged her whims, if she had seduced him, but would never have made an advance himself.

Narcissists like sex, if it is offered but don’t long for self-gratification in this way. It is not unusual for me to hear women’s stories, who are survivors of narcissists, of how many years they have not engaged in conjugal relations with their spouses. Often the male has medical problems, which go unchecked because the narcissist refuses to do anything about it. The narcissist will often say, to their spouse, “I don’t care anyway.” However, going to a doctor would be admitting they have something wrong with them. Unless they are in pain, they won’t take responsibility for anything. Once the narcissist is married, they have the spouse in a contract, so they don’t owe them anything. And, why do they stay? Because they are too lazy to leave. Their answer to their spouse will be “Why do we need to divorce? I like things the way they are. I don’t have a problem, you do.” That is why the spouse seeks out therapy and this is where I come in.

I am going to spoil the movie for you by talking about what happens. Another victim of Paul’s, Caroline, has been hanging about this movie in a few scenes. She is drunk, at the end of the Venetian party, and the last person to “leave.” She pursues Paul, who ignores her advances but carries her up to “Mifanwy’s room” (named the guest room in the movie). The next day, we learn she is dead. We also find out that the painting has been slashed many times. Paul had, by this point, told us what happened at the end of the reincarnation love story. The woman has a lover, and he (in that lifetime) finds out about it and strangles her with her own hair. This is how we find Caroline the next day – strangled by her hair in bed. Everyone assumes it is Paul, as do the police and he is eventually hung. While in prison, prior to his demise, Mifanwy visits him. She tries to urge him to tell the police their reincarnation story. He, in true narcissist form, does not want people to know “his truth.” He tells her they will put him in an insane asylum and he is not cut out for this. This is when he essentially admits that he has been with all these other women when he states his love of a woman’s hair. An interesting fetish!

Now we are back in time, seven years later, and she is standing there, once again (the movie starts at Madame Tussauds), in front of Paul’s wax figure and now we know why he is in the hall of horrors. The chauffeur approaches Mifanwy and we/she realize this is where she got the telegram from, telling her to come here. He tells her that Veronica is going crazy and he needs to admit her. They realize that Veronica is the murderer after she too, shows up at the museum. They listen to her admitting to her crimes in front of Paul’s wax statue. She makes a point of going here daily, at the close of the museum, to have talks with him – trauma bond, post-death. Mifanwy tells her some things, from the shadows. Veronica goes out of the museum and thrusts herself in front of on-coming cars. Mifanwy, having gotten some closure about what really happened returns to her husband and three children (which have occurred for her, in the seven years since Paul died). Her husband reads the paper [to her] and tells her that a man named Paul has been cleared of a horrible murder because the maid has admitted to doing this before killing herself. And they live happily ever after.

It is interesting that Paul would take the blame and his own life to keep Veronica alive. Perhaps there is more to their story that he doesn’t want anyone to know about. If she was put on the stand, she would have confessed to everything about Paul’s lifestyle. The covert narcissist will fight tooth and nail to preserve his lifestyle and not allow anyone to know about it – but his victims. Even they don’t know the entire story, except of course Veronica.

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