Posted by: greercn | February 23, 2012

A Dangerous Method

Knowing a bit of the history about Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung will help anyone who watches this. The phrases and ideas they put into language and and the eventual divisions between them form the basis of  “A Dangerous Method”.

At the start, we are in the earliest days of psychoanalysis, at the start of the 1900s. Nobody had an ego or an id or a subconscious, because these concepts did not exist.

A new patient makes Jung test out Freud’s ideas about talking cures for mental health issues. The characters here would use the word “madness”.

There are some great lines and terrific ideas, which are a little lost in the stagey language, at times. This is based on Christopher Hampton’s play “The Talking Cure” which is, in turn, based on the book “A Most Dangerous Method” by John Kerr.

There’s a feminist text here in that while Freud and Jung play with new notions about psychology, the truth seems to be much closer to what former student Sabina Spielrein is saying, as she becomes a psychoanalyst herself.

It’s an unusual project for Canadian director David Cronenberg, who so often does fast-paced action and less conventional stories than this speculation about the lives of historical characters.

The settings and rooms and costumes are all very beautiful.

Yet it only flags a couple of times. Cronenberg regular Viggo Mortensen is terrific as Freud, and truly brings his character to life. Michael Fassbender is having an amazing year. His Jung brings together the scientist and the enquirer into what we would call the occult.

Keira Knightley must have spent hours trying out those weird jaw movements, eye rolls and frankly bizarre accents. All this distracts from her portrayal of Spielrein.  She would have been better off speaking normally, with the occasional facial tic, perhaps.

Sarah Gadon has some nice moments as Emma Jung, Carl’s wife. But the whole movie is stolen by a magical Vincent Cassel. Sadly, he is in this all too briefly.

It reminds me a little of “Creation”, the movie about the life of Charles Darwin, which also concentrated on the differences between science and religion. “Creation” is a more entertaining film than this, albeit much longer.

The endng of “Method” is quite abrupt and those annoying “what happened next in real life” paragraphs flicker up, whizzing us through the rest of the characters’ real lives.

The Stratford Picturehouse audience liked it enough and stayed respectfully quiet. If the subject matter interests you or if the detailed sexual fantasies – mostly spanking – appeal to you. They did nothing for me, but I would like to research the real stories of these people and find out how much of this movie is based on truth.



  1. J’ai bien aimé le portrait de Carl Jung, personnage hésitant, expérimentant, à la recherche de ses vérités (sévérités … comme Sabina?)
    Il explore et il trouve en se confrontant à son père spirituel Freud, à ses propres principes remis en question par un fulgurant tourbillon nommé Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel qui joue encore un rôle de salaud…).
    Ceci sur un fond historique et psychanalytique qui alimente la consistance de la trame.
    Greer, j’ai aussi beaucoup apprécié ta critique très interessante sur ce film.

  2. Merci beaucoup, Nadia! Vincent Cassel est toujours superbe! J’aurais bien aime de voir quelqu’un d’autre – peut-etre Michelle Williams – pour Sabrina. Mais, quand meme, il y a beaucoup a retrouver dans les idees de Jung, Freud et Spielrein.

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