Synopsis: Seduced by the challenge of an impossible case, the driven Dr. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) takes the unbalanced yet beautiful Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) as his patient in A Dangerous Method. Jung’s weapon is the method of his master, the renowned Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). Both men fall under Sabina’s spell.
Release Date: November 23, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method begins with Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender from Inglourious Basterds and Shame) meeting his new patient, a young Russian-Jewish woman named Sabina Spielrein (The Pirates of the Caribbean movies’ Keira Knightley), who has been diagnosed with hysteria. Jung reaches out to Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen, The Lord of the Rings trilogy’s Aragon) for advice about the case, and the two find kindred spirits in each other, the two of them sharing theories that they both know will be important to the growing field of psychology. Sabina confides in Jung that she eventually wants to be a psychologist herself, and once Jung cures her (using Freud’s methods) he acts as a mentor to her in her studies. Unfortunately for the married Jung, he also becomes romantically involved with her, complicating both his professional and personal life. To compound his problems, he clashes with Freud on several of his theories, and Sabina’s presence drives them further apart. Jung ends up more confused than his patients, knowing that Freud’s processes, with which he disagrees, gain proven results.
Cronenberg’s career started with his making of some of the most creative science fiction horror films to ever see the screen, films like Scanners and Videodrome. Since then, he has successfully made the jump to more serious films, first with Naked Lunch and finally leading up to important films like A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. With A Dangerous Method, Cronenberg may have gone too far to the other side. There is no shock, death or even graphic violence in A Dangerous Method. Cronenberg doesn’t do any of what he does best – make the audience gasp in surprise – and the film ends up feeling like just another biopic because of it.
The plot of A Dangerous Method is very character driven, but the pivotal character of Sabina is too white-bread, making for a very drawn out, bland film. With two characters like Jung and Freud at his disposal, and the juicy part admiration-part competition relationship they share, the viewer feels short changed by Cronenberg’s emphasis on Sabina. Even in the scenes where she is not present, Jung and Freud end up discussing her at length. A film that could have been both an entertaining and interesting insight into the minds of two of the most influential individuals in history ends up being a period piece about one of their patients. And it’s a boring one, at that.
A Dangerous Method was written by Christopher Hampton, adapted from his play “The Talking Cure” that was based on John Kerr’s non-fiction book, “A Most Dangerous Method.” The script seems like exactly what it is – a film based on a play that was based on a textbook. It’s mostly dialogue based, and, full of psychobabble, the dialogue is wordy and devoid of emotion. In some places it works, like in the scenes where Jung and Freud are sitting around discussing psychoanalysis, but most of the movie just falls short of interesting. Professionals in the psychiatric field will love the film, but everyone else will just shake their heads and wait for something – anything – to happen.
Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen are terrific as Jung and Freud. Fassbender proves why he is one of the most sought after actors in movies today, and Mortensen justifies the reason why he is one of Cronenberg’s go-to guys. The scenes in which they share the screen are captivating, and the interplay between them shows that they are both two of the more talented actors in Hollywood.
Unfortunately, Keira Knightley is the weak link in the chain. Her performance is uninspired and dull. At the beginning of the film, when Sabina is first brought to Jung, Knightley’s portrayal of her is almost laughable, looking like she did all of her research on mental illness by watching educational films from the 50’s. Once Sabina is “cured,” Knightley gets a bit better, but most likely because the role gets easier from that point. She still comes off looking like an actress playing a role instead of an artist becoming her character like Fassbender and Mortensen do so well. And she spends the movie using the worst excuse for a Russian accent since Boris Badenov.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): David Cronenberg
- Producer(s): Christopher Hampton
- Screenwriter(s): Keira Knightley (Sabina Spielrein)Viggo Mortenson (Sigmund Freud)Michael Fassbender (Carl Jung)
- Story: Vincent Cassel (Otto Gross)
- Cast: Sarah Gadon (Emma Jung) Ronald SandersPeter SuschitzkyJames McAteer
- Cinematographer: Howard Shore
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: UKGermany