MICHAEL FASSBENDER KERIA KNIGHTLY VIGGO MORTENSEN VINCENT CASSEL
A DANGEROUS METHOD
Already acclaimed writer/director David Cronenberg (A History of Violence, Eastern Promises) is getting flack because A Dangerous Method is a bit more tame than what we are accustom to. I don’t think that changes the fact that A Dangerous Method is a fascinating, beautiful and superbly acted film. Furthermore, in the first ten minutes of the film it is crystal clear that Oscar nominee Keira Knightly (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement) will likely win the Academy Award this year in the supporting actress category. At just 26 years old, the period piece prone actress has proved so much in a short time. Hints of her greatness can be seen throughout her career, but there is no doubt after this compelling performance that she is a force to be reckoned with.
Before ever meeting Sigmund Freud (Mortensen), his eventual friend then rival Carl Jung (Fassbender) was one of the first to use Freud’s technique of psychoanalysis to cure a patient. That patient was young Russian Sabina Spielrein (Knightly) who suffered greatly from the abuse of her father. Jung’s ability to work through her disorder is incredible but the two become closer than he should professionally allow himself to be. Jung finally meets Freud whom he respects nearly as a father, however that strong friendship becomes tarnished over the years due to Jung’s personal decisions and his conflicting opinions on psychoanalysis.
A Dangerous Method is about many things, so for those worried it is just a bunch of historical psychology rhetoric, this is one of the must see films of the year. The relationships between the three characters are fascinating on their own, all these conflicting ideas and egos. Fassbender who has nearly appeared in as many films as Jessica Chastain this year turns in one more stellar performance. From X-Men First Class to Jane Eyre and then his real Oscar chance Shame next month, his range of talent and character metamorphosis has been showcased in three dramatically different roles. Moretensen who has now worked with Cronenberg three times is more a supporting role for the film, however his short dialogue and piercing stares say much about the role he is playing.
The opening scenes with Knightly are somewhat difficult to watch because she goes beyond what I would call “in character”, her contortions, which have already been widely discussed, are frightening. The character is so interesting as she is fully aware of her uncontrollable behavior, “I am vile and you must never let me out”. The meat of the film is really in that first hour, the second half seems more interested in tying things together and hitting the historical markers. One of Cronenberg’s first films in a while to contain no real violence (unless you consider the “thrashing” Spielrein enjoys so often). I wish this film has been around when I studied psychology in college, these high profile actors bring such fantastic and unforgettable touches to names we have always read about.
Final Thought – Knightly is the frontrunner for the supporting actress Oscar, in the performance of her career.
By Dustin Chase W:
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
I think this film is a very good attempt by David Cronenberg to present the story about the early days of psychoanalysis and the rift that occurred between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. It is interesting to observe theoretical notions about a methodology in its formative stage being articulated and argued about when the authors are struggling to find its “truth.” Obviously, they will not all agree with one another, and friendships can be severed in the process, as happened with Freud and Jung. It makes sense that when a method forges such an intimate relationship between doctor and patient, the issue of sexual boundaries would arise. It is not surprising that the formulators would disagree about where the boundaries should be and that some would feel the need to experiment—or simply not be aware of internal forces and their inability to maintain control over them.
Clearly, the film illustrates the inadvisability of sexual intimacy between therapist and patient and its far-reaching effects should it transpire. From this perspective in time, we know very well the dangers inherent in it, but in the time of Freud and Jung, this was not established, although Freud had strong opinions against it. Moreover, it should be noted that historians/scholars have never established that Jung and Spielrein actually were sexually intimate.
Cronenberg tends to surround himself with a group of his favorite colleagues in filmmaking. This movie is beautifully filmed by Cinematographer Peter Suschitzky against the backdrop of lush European landscapes. Appropriate music by Howard Shore is always in the background, and costume design by Denise Cronenberg (sister of David) is lovely to look at. The actor Viggo Mortensen has been in a number of the director’s films, and is spot on in the role of Sigmund Freud.
Likewise, Michael Fassbender convincingly plays Carl Jung, and I was struck by the resemblance of the two actors to the picture of Freud and Jung at Clark University upon their visit to America in 1909. Although much has been made of Keira Knightley’s performance, I agree with those who think she was miscast, and that there was little chemistry between her and Michael Fassbender.
In sum, I recommend this film to those who are interested in the early days when psychoanalysis was first being formulated.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland