Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Dangerous Method (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

A Dangerous Method

Director David Cronenberg, the Canadian instigator of surrealist cinema, strikes again with "A Dangerous Method", based on the sexual relationship between Carl Jung and a young patient Sabina Speilrein who overcame her own neurotic demons to become a famous psychoanalyst. Cronenberg's oeuvre is invariably clinical and spaced out, having previously tackled such material as William Burroughs' Naked Lunch and the Dalinian science fiction writer J.G. Ballard. Cronenberg has skillfully and correctly made the connection between psychoanalysis and Surrealism, where our most primeval dreams and fantasies are spoken of, visualized in paintings and set free.   

In this film,Victorian society is rightly shown as oppressive. Beneath the uniform, right-angled cleanliness of a 1890s Zurich  something beastly and hiddden lurks. A feral ingenue Sabina Speilrein (Kiera Knightley) is brought to Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) for treatment. Speilrein is wonderfully played by Knightley, who appears sometimes as a soiled semi-blasphemous Banshee only to transform into an astute and seductive analytic scholar. Her metamorphosis is nothing short of alchemy. Fassbender for his part, is stuffy and tight. His seamless black waistcoat is painted on his skin while his silver wire spectacles are riveted to his face as immovable as a pair of handcuffs. Jung seems made of cement. But just wait...droplets of temptation will make him a puppet on a string. Jung's glasses get steamed.

The fun is in waiting for it to happen.

Cronenberg in keeping with the film's period and subject, submerges all dramatic force under the surface. The film works more on a symbolic and visual level. One look at the famous Orientalist orange sofa under a sepia-gray sky, further encircled by a maze of  geometric buildings is all the trigger that you'll need to know that this film is about the release of a colorless repression that was the Victorian Age.

Jung himself sits down each day to breakfast as his wife Emma, sits across from him. She is as white as porcelain and as sterile. When Jung sees his red sailboat with sails that are amber-red like an occult womb, he is sent adrift.

Viggo Mortensen as Saint Sigmund is wrapped in a cloud of cigar smoke. He is as cold and frigid as a glacier. Not even the fire of cocaine can ignite him. Freud remains an impenetrable patriarch as passive as his conception of God.

Ultimately it is Sabina Speilrein who is the ground breaker.  A psychoanalytic Alice in Wonderland,  Speilrein alone uncovered new methods to what was repressed madness under starched white collars.

The color white is used frequently in this film, symbolizing the blanching  of our dirty impish Ids that lie beneath us all.

"A Dangerous Method" is a fine character study detailing Jung, Freud and  Speilrein: three mental Merlins of our age. It is a welcome addition to the Cronenberg canon and a must-see for any Jungian cinephile.  

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