Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley, Vincent Cassel
Duration: 99 min.
A look at how the intense relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gives birth to psychoanalysis.
A Dangerous Method is a film directed by David Cronenberg, based on Christopher Hampton's play The Talking Cure, and John Kerr's non-fiction book A Most Dangerous Method. It premiered at the 2011 Venice Film Festival.
Here Cronenberg assembles a wonderful cast led by Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung, Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud, Kiera Knightley as Sabina Spielrein, and Vincent Cassel as Otto Gross, to tell what essentially seems to be a tragic period romance in the guise of a historical biography. It's clearly a labor of love, as the subjects of Freud and psychoanalysis have been a long recurring theme in Cronenberg's films going as far back as 1977's Rabid; not to mention the basic idea of hidden destructive desires possessed and unleashed by accomplished medical professionals have always been his favorite film premise.
It's beautifully shot, perhaps the most visually impressive thing he's ever done. With a brilliant recreation of the period aided by some glorious work from sister and long time costume designer Denise Cronenberg. One quibble I had with the look was the painfully obvious CGI in one particular shot of Manhattan, but the other wonderful scenes shot in Germany but representing Switzerland and Austria more than make up for that small distraction.
The acting is fantastic as well, as can be expected from those leads, but also from the rest of the entire ensemble, in particular from Vincent Cassel in a criminally small supporting role as Otto Gross, a sexually liberated, read perverted, rogue disciple of Freud who just might be the most fascinating character in the entire cast; and a surprisingly intense if not entirely genuine turn from Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein, who starts out as the first guinea pig patient of Jung's, a relationship which eventually results in a torrid affair.
The trouble lies in the story. In attempting to cover such a long stretch of time in just over an hour and a half, the narrative suffers by being too jumpy and episodic. Although these are all deftly crafted and indisputably interesting characters, there's not nearly enough of the psychological tension, unsettling drama, or twisted darkness that we are used to seeing from a Cronenberg picture. Dare I say it lacks a certain element of danger. In the end it's a well made film and a decent watch, but doesn't quite captivate or exhilarate like one of his films should.
— Bonjour Tristesse