A Dangerous Method

23 Aug

 

Director: David Cronenberg

Writers: Christopher Hampton (screenplay), John Kerr (book)

Stars: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley and Viggo Mortensen

Motion Picture Rating: 15

Runtime: 99 minutes

 

 

This is a film, set ca. 1905 and based on true events, about the birth of psychoanalysis that is directed by David (Scanners, The Fly, Dead Ringers, and Crash) Cronenberg. It’s a strange combination although the studio point to the director’s most recent films (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises) as reference points. Cronenberg is not a likely candidate for this type of material and yet with it being so dry and serious, at least on the surface, it is his involvement that piqued my interest – the dark lord of body horror and sexual violence takes on Freud and Jung.

The cast is high quality with Mortensen as Freud, Fassbender as Jung and Knightley as Sabina Spielrein, a patient and then lover of Jung’s who becomes a highly regarded psychiatrist in her own right. The 3 actors all do well with Knightley particularly impressive in the more complex role. Sabina is an educated and outspoken young woman who suffered cruelty and abuse as a child that deeply affects her adult relationships. It is Jung that helps her to talk through, understand and to accept her past and the tense doctor-patient relationship is the core of the film. During that period Jung confides in and takes direction from Freud who acts as both a father figure and a teacher to him.

It is interesting to see Freud and Jung discuss and develop the theories on which modern psychoanalysis is founded. Their sparring underlines the size of what is still to be discovered in 1905 as well as the general suspicion and cynicism held of their immature profession. Has anything really changed? Well, the topics and patients portrayed here are not antiquated and the debates seem fresh enough (on the merits of repressing unsavoury feelings and so on).

In hindsight Cronenberg might not be such an odd choice as director. The story of Freud, Jung and Spielrein includes some trademark mental and physical exertions. There are a couple of spanking scenes (Jung on Spielrein) that certainly catch the 50 Shades of Grey zeitgeist. And Cronenberg is ably supported with great costume design and stunning location work (in Germany and Austria). Overall, this is an accomplished piece of film-making if not a truly spectacular film.

One Response to “A Dangerous Method”

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  1. A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg, 2011) | splendidcinema - September 18, 2012

    […] A Dangerous Method (smallscreenreviews.com) […]

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