Recalling my psychology classes in college, psychoanalysis was developed by Sigmund Freud. Simply put, it involves exploring an individual’s subconscious mind through ‘talk-therapy.’ Freud believed that our sexual drive (libido) played a major role in determining our behavior. Director David Cronenberg’s film, ‘A Dangerous Method’ is a fascinating look at the birth of psychoanalysis. Whether you believe in Freud’s theories or not, his body of work influences our culture to this day. Don’t let the period piece genre dissuade you from seeing it. The film stars the lovely Keira Knightley who is the princess of period pieces. She gives a brilliant performance and her Russian accent sounds authentic.
The story focuses on the character Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender). By the way, Michael Fassbender is an extremely talented actor. I hope to get the opportunity to see him in his latest film, ‘Shame’ but alas, the film received the NC-17 rating which is the kiss of death. The interesting thing about Fassbender’s portrayal of Jung is his honest performance. You get the impression that there is nobody more in need of psychotherapy than the man who is attempting to develop the method. Jung takes on a new patient, Sabine Spielrein (Keira Knightley), a troubled young Russian woman with surprising sexual tendencies.
The screenplay is first-rate. The dialogue is intelligent. The witty script was penned by the gifted playwright/screenwriter Christopher Hampton (Atonement, Dangerous Liaisons). Through the believable dialogue, I found myself engrossed in the story and the characters. You really believe Michael Fassbender is Carl Jung and you really believe that Viggo Mortensen is Sigmund Freud. Through his conversations and treatment sessions with Sabina Spielrein, who gets excited when being spanked, Jung is drawn to this woman. Jung ends up breaking the code and having a sex romp with Spielrein. These scenes are the most provocative in the movie. I almost laughed out loud in the theatre when Jung was spanking Spielrein. It is funny and shocking at the same time.
Besides covering the affair between Jung and Spielrein, the film does an excellent job documenting the professional relationship between Freud and Jung. Sigmund Freud is Carl Jung’s mentor but Viggo Mortensen’s brilliant performance shows us that Freud was almost like a father figure to Jung. Cronenberg expertly shows us the falling-out between Freud and Jung. In a series of letters, the two psychotherapists have almost a jousting match of words with one another. It is an intellectual battle of wits and the film does a splendid job covering every verbal and written blow.
The standout performance of the film is Keira Knightley as the troubled Russian patient. I’ve talked to a Russian friend of mine and she concurs that her accent sounds authentic. What I really enjoyed about her performance is her fits of hysteria she has throughout the film. Knightley is so convincing that you feel uncomfortable watching her. That is the sign of a stellar performance in my book. When an actor can make you feel uneasy in your theatre seat, you know they nailed the performance. I highly recommend this movie for the brilliant performances and intelligent script.
‘A Dangerous Method’ is now playing at The Flicks theatre, downtown Boise. Showtimes.