A Dangerous Method (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Run time 99 minutes.
Not for children.
This is the story of 50-year-old Sigmund Freud (Viggo
Mortensen) and his acolyte, 30-year-old Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender)
at the dawn of the 20th Century and how their relationship started with
a "hysterical" female patient of Jung's, 20-year-old Sabina Spielrein (Keira
Knightley). Into the mix is another patient, mid-30s psychiatrist Otto
Gross (Vincent Cassell), described by Freud as an immoralist and drug
addict, who attacks Jung's morality, causing a downward spiral. As one
should expect, given that it's the story of the birth of psychoanalysis
based on past sexual experiences, it's mostly talk with some sex and
Director David Cronenberg developed the film from
screenwriter Christopher Hampton's play, The Talking Cure.
Watching this film takes a lot of concentration and thought because it's
a history of the development of psychoanalysis and its sexual component.
Unknown to many, the film shows that Sabina, who became an analyst
herself, had a strong impact on the thinking of both Freud and Jung.
Hampton based much of the story on Sabina's hospital records, personal
journals and correspondence with both Jung and Freud. This movie gives
her much more credit for a lot of the methods that have heretofore
rested solely with Freud and Jung.
Knightley's over the
top acting as a psychotically disturbed young woman at the beginning of
the film is disturbing and uncomfortable to watch. In fact, it almost
lost me. I'm glad I stuck with it, but it's hard to know if Sabina was
really this sick or if Knightley just overacted. It's either overacting
or an award-quality performance. But, of course, one of the points of
the movie is that psychoanalysis can cure, or at least help, severely
The acting is worth
the price of admission. Mortensen gives a remarkably pleasing
performance as Freud, and Fassbender is a satisfying Jung. Cassell shows
his range as the neurotic Gross, a big leap from his role as the French
arch-criminal Jacques Mesrine (in 2008's Mesrine: Killer Instinct
and Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1).
The ambience of the movie is exceptional. Although
set in Vienna and Zurich, the film was shot in Cologne, Bodensee (Lake
Constance) and Vienna itself. The locations are beautiful and the
recreation of early 20th-Century Europe evocative. Many scenes were shot
in Freud's actual house in which he lived from 1891-1938.
If you pay attention to all the talk, you can learn
a lot and be entertained at the same time.
October 11, 2011