A Dangerous Method
Manic 18-year-old Sabina Spielrein (Knightley) is admitted to the Burgholzli, a mental hospital outside Zurich, in 1904 and is placed into the care of Carl Jung (Fassbender), a psychiatrist who specialises in a "talking cure." Jung helps Sabrina through her illness and, despite being married with children, indulges in an affair with her, all the while encouraging her to become a psychoanalyst. When Jung moves in the circles of his mentor, Sigmund Freud (Mortensen), both disagree over methods: It's a dangerous time for the fledgling science and Freud's insistence on reading sex into everything rubs up against Jung's yearning to explore telepathy.
Adapted by Christopher Hampton from John Kerr's book (Hampton also transformed the material into a play), A Dangerous Method is very much a talkie, which you can expect from a film about psychoanalysts and psychiatrists, but there's nothing new brought to the couch. Cronenberg has chilled of late and his recent films – History of Violence, Eastern Promises - aren't the creepy, disturbing journeys into the dark corners of the soul his best – Videodrome, Crash, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch – were. The mixture of sex and violence remains but it's all rather stiff and tame.
Cronenberg sets the story up as a woman who comes between two friends but there's no love in the three-way. When the two colleagues fall out and a despondent Freud clasps the framed picture of Jung to his bosom, it isn't the moment of longing and regret Cronenberg hopes it would be because the director hasn't give the friendship any oomph. Freud's fear that the public will turn on the fledgling science if Jung's thoughts on exploring the power of the mind are aired aren't grounded in any real fear on screen – the story hasn't pencilled in the ramifications if that ever came to pass and its drama is lost on the audience.
But the performances are what stick in the memory with three very different turns. Knightley is in a hard position, a role that only takes the tiniest nudge to send her into the territory of overacting (her growls, barks and manic laughs can be a bit much), but in contorting her face to the point of almost dislocating her jaw, she certainly can't be accused of sleepwalking through the role. In his spectacles, smart haircut and tight-fitted suit, Fassbender looks deliberately awkward and the perfect foil to his bouncing-off-the-walls co-star. Mortensen, sat back in his chair and perpetually puffing on a cigar, looks comfortable in his own skin and nestles in nicely between the two. Cassel is underused but his psychiatrist who obeys every sexual whim that enters his head is a delight – his story is another Cronenberg could have told instead.
Like Polanski and his lack of carnage last week, there's not a lot of danger to be had here and is certainly too mellow for a Cronenberg film but this take on the birth of psychiatry is at least interesting.
Review by Gavin Burke | 09:00 | Thursday 2nd February 2012 | Movie Review
The story is about Carl Jungs relationships with his wife, Freud and Sabina Spielrein when psychotherapy was in its infancy. Set is Switzerland and Vienna, the story starts when Sabina Spielrein becomes Jungs patient. It charts how Jung allows this relationship to impact his marriage and the contact with Freud. Vincent Cassel makes a small appearance as Freud's friend with a drug habit who also needed psychotherapy. I wondered if Knightley was overacting or whether the descriptions of her characters behaviours were that pronounced. Either way, the structure of the story was not designed to keep the audience enthralled but perhaps this is because Jung is not in any way a dramatic character and it was difficult to empathize with the others. It was worth watching but I wouldn't feel the need to watch it again.Posted 09:17 | Mon 13th Feb 2012
David Cronenberg continues to move away from his body horror roots with A Dangerous Method, an adaptation of the play The Talking Cure. It's about the meeting and ongoing dialogue between two great psychoanalytical minds of the early 20th Century - Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud and the female patient/colleague caught between them. It's mostly a stately, clinical, cerebral chamber piece that promises fireworks but never really delivers. It feels half-baked at times, with Freud very much a background character which is a shame. Empire recently noted that Keira Knightley can be viewed as cinematic Marmite but here she's a revelation, twisting and contorting her face and body to convey her character's damaged personality. Cronenberg is always essential viewing for any film fan but like his earlier, similar film Spider, it's unlikely that A Dangerous Method will have any lasting appeal.Posted 21:37 | Mon 13th Feb 2012
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