A Dangerous Method tells the compelling story of two of the biggest names in Psychoanalysis; Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), and the unethical relationship Jung had with patient Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) and how this had an impact on both his theories and practices, and his relationship with mentor Freud.
The film is directed by David Cronenberg, who is known largely for his king of venereal horror’ films such as The Fly and Videodrome. On first glace this may seem like unfamiliar territory for the now veteran Canadian director, but with his more recent films Cronenberg has become more concerned with psychological drama than venereal horror. Under the surface A Dangerous Method still has all the traits of classic Cronenberg; neuroticism, sexual inhibitions, omnisexuality, the list goes on.
A Dangerous Method is based upon the play The Talking Cure by Christopher Hampton, so unsurprisingly it is a rather talky affair, but thankfully its fantastic cast really draw the audience in. Michael Fassbender, who is slowly becoming a firm favourite among audiences, works fantastically with both Mortensen’s unrecognisable portrayal of Freud and also Vincent Cassel, who plays Doctor cum patient, Otto Gross. Although having rather short screen time, Gross is essentially the catalyst which starts to unfold Jung and Freud’s relationship.
The only let-down unfortunately is Knightley. Within the films first few minutes she is admitted to the mental hospital in which Jung practices and goes through a rather heavy gurn session, which may cause some viewers to think she is being somewhat slightly over the top with her performance. Luckily these outbursts soon disappear, but unfortunately her awful Russian accent does not and this soon becomes irritating to the point where you dread the next time she opens her mouth. Despite this, it has to be said that this is a very daring and commendable performance by Knightley.
The film’s largest misfortune is that Jung and Freud are not given enough screen time together. Throughout the film they come face-to-face only a handful of times, and these definitely make for the strongest scenes; from their first meeting where they discuss Sabina’s symptoms to their final meeting where Jung stands defiant against Freud. These scenes mix both drama and black comedy perfectly, as Freud sees his wunderkind Jung slowly back away from his theories and start to become interested in the paranormal and mythological.
The rest of the film concentrates mainly on the affair between Jung and Spielrein and how this affected Jung’s theories and practices, Fassbender and Knightley’s scenes together work rather well as they slowly blur the lines between patient and doctor.
Despite the fantastic cast the film often falls short, building up to points where conflict may happen but then quickly moving away from it. It also has a tendency to jump large gaps in time, which becomes a little confusing at some points. Despite this the strong cast and the brilliant score from frequent Cronenberg collaborator Howard Shore really make the film worth watching.
Overall Verdict: Although the film gives a fantastic insight into the life of Carl Jung and his relationship with Freud, it never really reaches the points you wish it to and the abrupt ending may cause some viewers to feel a bit short changed.
Commentary with David Cronenberg
The Making of A Dangerous Method
Reviewer: Gareth Haworth