2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is a magical combination,Cronenburg and Freud,and it is scripted by a master narrator,Christopher Hampton as a play, Talking Cure,from a book,The Dangerous Method.Freud was to become the master navigator of theunconscious, exploring through scientific method and psychoanalysis,the human soul and psychology in our more secular age. Having watched it I was very impressed with Keira Knightley's performance,of a hysterical woman(Sabina Spielrein) who has suppressed her sexuality due to her father's repression and his beatings,which have adversely stimulated her desire. Without her central characterisation of an extremely complex female,who became in reality central to both Jung(Fassbinder) andFreud(Mortenssen), who was to become a psychoanalyst herself, working with both Jung and Freud,also having fallen in love with Jung,by crossing the barriers of the analyst-patient relationship,Knightley conveys extreme emotion,angst,yearning,terror and intellectual passion.She is the catalyst for Jung's rebellion against his father-figure.
Jung and Freud are played by two of the screens major character actors.Fassbinder plays the novitiate Jung,who shares his dreams with Freud(unreturned by Freud,who fears losing his authority), who feels hamstrung by Freud's singleminded focus on sexuality at the root of all our behaviour and neurosis,and Jung's attempts to broaden the canvas into religion,parapsychology and mysticism,seeking to improve his patient's lives.Freud played byMortensen as a stolid patriarch with a cigar treats his friend as a patient,who must confess his thoughts to Freud's higher authority.He wants him to be his son and heir.Freud addresses Jung in letters as "Dear friend"(infuriating Jung). Jung proposes to treat Sabina by the `talking cure',Freud's method of analysis.Jung is shown as nervy andtwitchy, a bored bourgeois,seeking release from his conventional,often pregnant wife,Emma(Sarah Gaddon), via his treatment of Otto Gross(Cassel),whose libidinous ideas inspire Jung to begin an affair with Sabina,who insists through her desire for beatings,they have a sadomasochistic relationship.Jung tries to break off with Sabina,trying to quell the rumours of their affair,but the affair continues.Freud disapproves of Jung's treatment of Sabina.Freud and Jung grow increasingly estranged.Sabina works with Freud.There are brilliant costumes, set design and period detail in both Switzerland and Vienna.The style of the movie is formal,nicely controlled of a world pre-1st World War world,in which the monsters of the id are about to erupt.Sabina like Freud was a Jew, whereas Jung's Aryanism prefigures Nazi ideas of blood and soil.There are underlying questions of Jung's collaboration with the Nazis.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
"A Dangerous Method" is a movie that disserved by its trailer -- it looked like a movie that focused on Carl Jung having an affair with a masochistic mental patient. Well, yes, that does happen. But David Cronenberg's movie is less about the love affair and more about Carl Jung's fraying friendship with Sigmund Freud, and Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender give exquisite performances. Sadly, Keira Knightley isn't up to their level.
Sabina Spielrein (Knightley) is incarcerated at a Swiss mental hospital, where she is psychoanalyzed by Carl Jung (Fassbender) -- and soon he is able to pinpoint the cause of her masochistic sexual behavior. Soon she's not only acting normally, but is studying to become a doctor herself.
Pleased by her progress, Jung speaks about her to the eminent Dr. Sigmund Freud (Mortensen), who views Jung as a surrogate son and heir to his well-regarded theories. At the same time, Jung continues working professionally with Sabina as she develops her own psychoanalytic theories -- and the two of them develop a passionate attraction.
Jung initially is reluctant to cheat on his loyal, beautiful wife. But after a sex-addicted psychoanalyst (Vincent Cassel) exhorts Jung to follow his urges, he falls into a passionate affair with Sabina. This throws a monkey wrench not only into his personal life, but it begins to interfere in his friendship with Freud -- and as Jung insists on following his own theories about myth and archetypes, his friendship with Freud begins to fall apart.
It takes a director as brilliant as David Cronenberg to not only get a movie like this made and released in theatres, but to keep it from becoming dull. Most of "A Dangerous Method" is made up of conversations about the human mind and how it works, slowly showing the audience that psychoanalytic theories are not really about the patient -- they are all about the shrinks and how THEY see the world.
And yet Cronenberg makes every scene, every conversation feel intense and sometimes passionate, no matter how dry the subject matter is. He makes you feel the intense passion of Jung and Sabina as they natter about their theories, contrasted to the rigid condescension of Freud. Things are intense even in a funny scene where Freud exhorts Jung to talk about kinky sexual practices at the dinner table.
And while Jung's sexual/intellectual affair with Sabina is important, the most important relationship here is the friendship with Freud and Jung, which flowers briefly before slowly decaying. Fassbender and Mortensen are absolutely spellbinding here -- one is a uncertain but passionate doctor who is seeking to explore new terrain in the human mind, and the other is an older, more entrenched man who refuses to explore different theories.
But Keira Knightley was not the right actress for this part -- she's not subtle enough to go toe-to-toe with Mortensen and Fassbender. Any displays of emotion look cartoonish and exaggerated, with her twitching and yo-yoing jaw. Even in the scenes where Sabina is composed, she feels over-the-top compared to the others.
"A Dangerous Method" is a very cerebral, "talky" movie, but it also is a powerful look back at the men and women who created psychology as we know it today. And while Knightley is embarrassing, Fassbender and Mortensen are astounding.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I had been quite excited by the idea of this film - boundary pushing director David Cronenberg taking a look at the early days of psychoanalysis, a subject that has clearly had a large part to play in many of his earlier films. It centres around Michael Fassbender's very human Carl Jung and his relationships with patients, family and Sigmund Freud (a charismatic Viggo Mortensen). It has talented actors (apart from Keira Knightly as one of Jung's patients - she does fine hamming up the hysterical fits, but has all the expression of a plank when required to do some more subtle acting), and a director who usually finds new and interesting ways in which to explore his subjects, but the film really falls flat.
In many ways it is too pedestrian, too safe. Fassbender nicely portrays a man always thinking, always analysing, trying to find ways to understand his patients and to help them. This leads him to some potentially interesting situations, and a meeting with the father of psychoanalysis, Freud. It is in the scenes between Freud and Jung that the film really takes off, the interaction between the questioning Jung and the charismatic and controlling Freud being the core of the film. Then all too soon we are back to Jung and his relationship with Keira Knightly's Sabina, one of Jung's patients, which plays out a lot like a typical tired love triangle.
Moments of inspiration, long stretches of flat tedium, great central performances from Fassbender and Mortensen but overall ruined by the much overrated Knightly. Directed seemingly without much interest by someone who usually produces much better work. 2 stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
If you want to see sumptuous period costumes, a drama of manners from the immediate pre-WW1 years highlighting the prejudices and discrimination of the times, some deep philosophy, and some tortured souls resolving their anguish, then enjoy this film. If you need a high octane action thriller full of chases and bullets then look elsewhere.
The film is as the Az blurb describes; a (mostly) true story focusing on the growth of the relationship between Jung (Fassbender) and Freud (Mortensson), as sparked by the catalyst of a patient Sabina Spielrein (Knightley), and their efforts in the development of the science of psychoanalysis. The action takes place between approximately 1904 and 1914.
The production is stunning with superb location sets and breathtaking scenery. The bulk of the action could almost be performed as a stage play, but the script and dialogue benefit from the more intimate settings which only the close-ups of the film can achieve. The dialogue was crystal clear at all times, and the background music served only to highlight the mood and was never intrusive.
At times I found the storyline a bit long winded, and had to remind myself that this was based on reality and the extensive correspondence between the main protagonists. The actors were convincing, sufficiently so that I found myself disliking some of the characters and losing interest in the film. Parts of it reminded me of Bette Davis's classic film Now Voyager, but I don't think they should be compared.
On my Vine evaluation DVD although the first audio option claimed to be 3/2.1 surround this was actually identical to the 2.0 stereo option. Fortunately my amplifier was able to synthesise a reasonable surround from the Dolby info buried in there.
Additional material on my DVD includes an interesting Extra with a few minutes on the making of the film, as well as Cronenberg's commentary in the third audio option for the film itself. On the Set Up menu it also has available English Audio Description and/or Subtitles.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This film shocked me. Well, of course, a Cronenberg film SHOULD shock you. But this shocked me BECAUSE it is a Cronenberg film. Based on a book and play it's not his material, but even so...I love the Cronenberg of Scanners, Videodrome, Crash, A History of Violence, Dead Ringers - and this just doesn't sit right with me. The subject matter didn't grab me, and while Fassbender and (particularly) Mortensen are always watchable, Keira Knightley is...well, Keira Knightley. She's a good pouter, I'll give her that.
It's beautifully shot, and the set and costume designs are glorious - but then I'd expect that from Cronenberg. It's a tight, compact narrative - again, what I'd expect from Cronenberg. But other than that, it didn't really hold my interest.
I guess when I imagined a Cronenberg film about Freud, it was very, very different to this. And it certainly didn't have Keira Knightley in it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 August 2012
This true story is little known and is a fascinating insight into early psycho analysis. The three leads are all very good and the locations stunning. You need to be aware that much of the drama is discussions between Freud and Jung so can be a little esoteric for those not familiar with the subject, but never the less it is interesting and well acted. A difficult role particularly for Keira Knightley, but as usual she gives a great performance even down to a passable Russian accent ( I admit to being a big fan and she is usually great in anything historic). One of those tales that if it was not true you could hardly believe it!
on 6 May 2015
David Cronenberg moves from body horror to mental dangers in this intelligent and handsomely mounted production of a tale from the early history of psychiatry: the relationships between Sigmund Freud, played by Viggo Mortenson, Carl Jung, played by Michael Fassbender, and two of the forgotten people of early psychoanalysis, Sabine Speilrein, Keira Knightley, and Otto Gross, Vincent Cassel.
The film imagines a love affair between Carl Jung and one of his patients, Sabine Spielrein, a woman who went on to become an important psychiatrist in her own right. Spielrein’s case prompted Jung to contact Sigmund Freud in 1906 for insights into treating her, beginning the relationship between Jung and Freud which lasted until their split in 1914.
Relationships are at the centre of the movie. As well as Spielrein and Jung, there are those between Jung and Freud, between Jung and his wife, between Spielrein and Freud, and, most subtly, between Jung and Otto Gross, sent to Jung by Freud for treatment but who ends up influencing Jung into a very different worldview, one which sends him straight into the arms of Sabine Spielrein and some very unorthodox treatment.
The film begins with a burst of action as Sabine Spielrein is dumped at the Burgholzi clinic in Switzerland in 1904 and taken as a patient by the newly-qualified Dr Carl Jung. She was diagnosed by Jung as a psychotic hysteric and Keira Knightley’s depiction of this state is pretty close to Jung’s initial notes, using her own physicality to describe Spielrein’s derangement. Her condition improves but that unstable, twitchy dimension is always there as Keira Knightley keeps her on the edge right to the end.
Michael Fassbender plays Jung as the polar opposite of Spielrein. Jung is calm, good-natured, kindly, and thoroughly decent even when he’s having his affair with her or falling out with Freud. There’s an attractive, genuine quality in Fassbender that makes him the stable centre of the film.
The other great relationship in the film is between Freud and Jung. Viggo Mortensen’s Freud is obsessed with protecting psychoanalysis from its enemies, sizing up Jung as a potential successor yet careful to maintain his own status as head of the clan. There’s a dry wit in his performance along with an honesty about Freud’s less appealing side, such as his chagrin at Jung’s wealthy wife that lets us see Freud as human, all too human - a great but difficult man caught up in the dilemma of looking for a crown prince then, when he finds one, driving him into exile.
The arrival of Otto Gross propels the film forward and provides Jung with the impetus, or the excuse, to start an affair with Sabine Spielrein. Gross is the chaos factor, breaking the stalemate between Spielrein’s desire for Jung and Jung’s staid conservatism and professionalism. Vincent Cassel plays Otto Gross as neurotic, shallow, insightful and obsessive, going through one sexual experience after another in search of Experience, permanently unhappy. He rejected Freud’s idea of repression as a necessity for civilised behaviour, insisting on the immediacy of experience as negating the need for analysis, and challenging Jung at every step to do the obvious thing and have an affair with Sabine. It’s an intelligent portrayal by Cassel, emphasising the mental and emotional distance between himself and Freud and Jung and condemning their inability to help him or, in his opinion, themselves. When he climbs over a wall and heads off to his tragic fate, of poverty and death, he is walking away from the possibility of psychiatry itself.
The urgency and sense of panic in his early horror classics are long gone for Cronenberg. A Dangerous Method has a slow, regular pace and some scenes have an almost painterly quality, aided by some great digital matte backgrounds. Scenes are carefully composed with soft focus around the edges of facial shots keeping our attention on the middle of the frame. Outdoor scenes have people slowly promenading in the background along riversides or in parks, adding life and motion and giving a depth to the world.
Deep inside the end credits it says “This film is based on true events, but certain scenes, especially those in the private sphere, are of a speculative nature”. The mix of fact and speculation has produced a consistent story thanks to Cronenberg’s tight focus on characters who are brought to life by great actors in a film of pristine production values and beautiful music. In a way this mirrors the dangerous and optimistic offer of psychoanalysis: to mix the known and unknown in consciousness and produce a better, more consistent human being.
Caution: this review does contain spoilers. This is a David Cronenberg film based on a play, which was based on a book, both of which may be better than the film, which besides some crazy jaw-jutting acting from Keira Knightley, a bizarre spanking scene and good performances by Michael Fassbender as the young Carl Jung and Viggo Mortensen as his aged mentor Sigmund Freud, has little in the way of actual `meat'.
While it is a vaguely interesting exploration of Carl Jung it says little about Freud beyond the notion that he was obsessed with sex despite being portrayed as a monogamous and slightly pompous pipe smoking old fart. I was also disappointed that Jungian theory of dreams and superstition was not explored and we were presented with a snippet of his life revolving around his affair with Sabina Spielrein (Knightley).
Spielrein is at turns completely hysterical and brilliantly insightful as she challenges both Jung's and Freud's theories of psychoanalysis and demands to be spanked by married man and father, Jung. Jung eventually caves in and then later ends the affair in a fit of guilt, much to Sabina's distress. By way of revenge she destroys the friendship between Jung and Freud and leaves Jung on the edge of the nervous breakdown he would later have, but not before investing in another mistress.
This is a good film to watch if you are a fan of any of the lead actors as they are all on form, but offers no great entertainment as a story itself.
On some levels it works really well, but on others it appears plan revisionist. As if the early psycho therapeutic world was only composed of Freud and Jung. In reality there was a multi-tussle of dynamics between Adler, Jones, Freud, Ferenczi, Jung, Stekel, Rank, Reich and numerous others.
Otto Gross gets a look in, but only to highlight a counterpoint to the more considered Jung. Gross requested the need for more promiscuity. In terms of a bio pic, the Grand daddy of the drop out, deserves a film all to himself and the snap shot in this film does not do him justice.
Otto Gross, the son of Hans Gross, was the perfect child, hammered into submission into being a carbon copy of Daddy. He took to the Adlerian polarity, shifting from inferiority to superiority and rebelled against the dominating values. As a result he ignited the first stirrings of an emancipation for all.
Unfortunately it was the expense of his own wife and children. However trapped within a Victorian/Wilhelmine straightjacket, there were few compass bearings for an individual revolt against all values. Drawing on Stirner, Nietzsche and Bachofen he began to usher in a more individual view. Meanwhile as he sped away from Freud he also fought out a father-son battle. The upshot was he began to self medicate for being overpowered.
A theme that is only lightly touched upon in the film. For those who are interested it is well worth looking him up, a forgotten therapist who worked to influence, Eric Muhsam and Gustav Landauer, touching Kafka, DH Lawrence, Reich and the whole field of sexual liberation.
Jung is portrayed well by Fassbinder, but he lacks a dynamic, a will to power. His ideas arrive as an outside spring into being, suddenly spurting up within conversation and speculation rather than through experience. Telepathy, ancestor myths, collective unconscious, folk memories, the occult all arise without any precedent.
Freud appears to be infused with some human qualities in the film. The man who launched a new paradigm, whilst sailing to no known destination appears pensive rather than tyrannical. The film is dominated by him and his presence.
Speilrein is one of the many female victims of the era and the main focus of the film. Her plight connects to Stekel's main contribution to the therapeutic discipline; an area that Jung seemingly shied away from - sexual paraphilias.
Stekel looked at female sexuality and explored the depths of pathological sexualities along with the various fetishes. Here we see Keira playing the woman committed to a more enlightened type of asylum, run by Jung, as he falls for his patient.
Within the relationship she represents the untamed Dionysian world, whilst he is bound by the more formal discipline of the Apollonian world of wealth, as he is seduced by his wife's money.
The iron bound strictures which surrounded this particular world become apparent as they keep everyone trapped in codes. The sexual preferences of Speilrein and her constant need to return to the sites of her child humiliation - these are well represented. They also provide the film with some titillation. The various splits between Jews and Aryans are also part of the conundrum of the era. Jung was later to embrace National Socialism. Freud was to flee to the UK.
The film, for the viewer is slow paced and it could have been far racier had it concentrated on the clash between the elder and younger Gross along with the flight to find freedom. As it stands it is interesting, ponderous and it provides a certain myopic window onto the early strands of psychotherapy.
A far bigger story however is waiting in the wings.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 6 July 2013
If the word "clinical" can be applied to psychoanalysis it can certainly be applied to this film. Cronenberg tries to encapsulate the early days of Jungian and Freudian psychology into the plot, but at its heart (such as it has one) it focuses on the Sabine Spielrein story which, unfortunately for the director, is much better related in the 2002 Anglo-Italian-French coproduction known in English as "The Soul Keeper" Prendimi l'anima - (easy collection) [DVD] . There's no visible Freud in the earlier film - his role has been exaggerated here to cast a wider net of "significance" - Jung is played just as well (by Iain Glen), Spielrein is portrayed sympathetically and effectively by Emilia Fox without Knightley's bizarre accent or playing to the gallery, Jung's wife is more convincing and, unlike "A Dangerous Method", it is genuinely affecting rather than po-faced and sterile, with no gratuitous sadomasochism thrown in in a desperate attempt to spice things up.