6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Diana F. Von Behren
- Published on Amazon.com
While this 2002 Italian/French cinematic approach to the Sabina Spielrein/Carl Jung relationship entitled "The Soul Keeper" by director Roberto Faenza does not have the notoriety of the 2010 David Cronenberg film entitled "A Dangerous Method," it resonates more profoundly in the mind of its audience in a way that will encourage its viewers to further educate themselves with regard to the accomplishments of this interesting woman who is one of the pioneers of modern psychotherapy. Unlike the newer production, "Soul Keeper" distinguishes itself by being more romantically envisioned--depicting its main characters as emotional human beings and not just intellectual automaton. Where "A Dangerous Method" focuses more on the relationship between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbinder) using Keira Knightley's Speilrein as an odd subset to their union, "Soul Keeper" showcases Speilrein as its star, abandoning a morally distraught Jung in Switzerland and moving onto her later life as an early childhood psychoanalyst/educator in the post-revolutionary USSR.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Russian-born Sabina Spielrein (the bright-eyed Emilia Fox who plays Morgause in television's Merlin) is brought to the Burghölzli hospital facility in Switzerland where Dr. Carl Gustav Jung (Iain Glen) treats her for "hysteria" by using Freud's then new and controversial "talking cure." For this reviewer, Fox's performance garners more acclaim than Keira Knightley's simply because although she is portraying an obviously brilliant persona, she doesn't loose her vulnerability as a human being. While still in her "pre-cure" mode, Knightley's angular body twitches and contorts with such vehemence it forces the audience to look away before seeing something even more disturbing than what they've already glimpsed. The Sabina of "A Dangerous Method" tightly reins in her desires with an acute sense of wound-up control, despite her tumultuous affair with Jung and her attempt at wounding him with a knife. Fox's Sabina seems more willing to careen headfirst and embrace the highs of life as a buoyant dance that is so infectious it draws both patients and doctor in impromptu celebrations. Her lows curl her body in a fetal position that shout "depression"; when she cuts herself with a fork her need for help is reflected from the windows of her eyes. Later as the founder of the White Nursery in Russia, she exhibits patience, perseverance and love not only for people but for the freedom she works so hard to achieve. Fox glows from within, bringing a compassionate bodhisattva quality to the Sabina of later life.
As depicted in "A Dangerous Method," the phenomenon of falling in love with one's therapist becomes a hot and tempestuous reality that threatens to rock Jung's steadfast marriage and take his mind off or perhaps instills inroads towards his thinking regarding the collective unconscious --at least for the time in which he and Spielrein are passionately entwined and the blinds are drawn tightly in her Zurich apartment.
Unlike Fassbinder's rather stodgy and uncomfortable portrayal of the younger Jung, Glen plays the good doctor as someone a bit unsure of his personal convictions--as if he is wading through a quagmire of sensations and emotions of which he had been previously unaware or had chosen to repress. In one scene, he and Speilrein check into a hotel--she willingly expresses her delight in the fact that unmarried as they are, they will still be sharing one room with a very large bed while he guiltily looks away, unable to proclaim his infidelity to his wife verbally to the world. Glen's Jung still flounders with his beliefs; he professes one thing and does another. In another of the film's moments highlighting their affair, Speilrein and Jung attend Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. While Isolde sings her beautiful aria over Tristan's body, Jung suddenly becomes overwhelmed by some revelatory thoughts regarding his happiness and runs from the opera house. Of course, while these moments are contrived for dramatic effect by Faenza who also wrote the film's screenplay, they, nevertheless, do convey to the audience a powerful and meaningful insight into Jung's mind and heartset.
Unlike Cronenberg, Faenza doesn't speculate as to the nature of Speilrein's sexual proclivities. His Jung and Speilrein keep their sexual appetites sustained on long moments with naked arms and legs entwined. Thankfully, there is no suggestion of Spielrein's daddy issues manifesting into a full-blown need for S&M ala the popular 50 Shades of Grey to boost mainstream interest in this film.
Unfortunately, the film feels flawed. Perhaps the telling of the love story between the two at times uses too conventional a flow. Or perhaps, it is the modern-day frame set in Moscow where a professor from the University of Glasgow and a Russian interpreter discover what becomes of Spielrein once she leaves Jung behind and functions as a card-carrying member of Soviet Russian society. This technique used in other films with an equal lack of success (W.E. and Sarah's Key comes quickly to mind) allows the audience full entry into the private lives of the two leads only to painfully interrupt the emotional flow with what seems like a bad commercial.
To his credit, Faenza uses old film to depict the bravado of the Post-Revolutionary Russia of the 20s and then showcases the Russia of 2002 with less-than-glorious scenes of an economy in turmoil. From the window of what was once the White Nursery, the interpreter sees a woman in a back alley selling glimpses of her pendulous breasts; the decline of this sleeping giant of a country is sorely felt.
Bottom line? Roberto Faenza's "The Soul Keeper" will surely interest viewers who are intrigued by the Speilrein/Jung alliance as depicted in "A Dangerous Method" and the 2002 documentary My Name Was Sabina Spielrein by Elisabeth Marton. Don't look for Freud to make an appearance in this film, its all about Sabina. Emotionally perfect performances by Emilia Fox and Iain Glen keep the film from getting into too tedious an intellectual space and succeed in depicting great minds with their very human limitations. Recommended.
Diana Faillace Von Behren
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
A dramatic complement to the deep, but less than entertaining film, My Name is Sabina Spielrein. Spielrein's contribution has been overlooked for far too long; and yes, Jung is a human being. Soul Keeper is sympathetic to Jung and Spielrein, as opposed to the new film coming out next year (A Dangerous Method) from the Freud-leaning director Cronenberg, which so far looks to be overstating Freud's role here.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Really I just wanted to complain about the "Lain" part...but since I'm here...I guess I'll snuggle in to my opinion. The Jung/Spielrein portion of the movie was excellent, I thought. Actually I would say it was better than the recent Cronenberg adaptation (but sorry, no paddling). Both major characters were well developed and the plot line was interesting --- although I do think they made Spielrein a little more psychotic and unhinged than she perhaps actually was (especially during the later scenes). Jung comes off as hero-worthy at the beginning, then morphs into the poster boy for boundary violations. Still, there is a feeling of sympathy for both characters, esp. Spielrein. What deserves the most sympathy in the movie however is the utterly bizarre and utterly boring "present day story" that's intermixed with the really interesting story of Jung and Spielrein. I felt as if I was watching a series of punishingly long commercials and cared not a whit for whatever silly plotline they were trying to weave into the overriding theme. The only good part to the "present day" story was "modern guy's" ridiculous and distracting stud earring which was good for a laugh. More attention to Jung and oh, I don't know, maybe Emma and how about that nobody named Freud...yeah, those folks... would have made the movie so much more engaging, overall. Still, I'm a fan.