“A Dangerous Method” Is
More Jungian Than Freudian
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Sigmund Freud came up with what he called the Talking Cure. His protégé Carl Jung bought into this dangerous method, but eventually broke off to explore the collective unconscious, telepathy, and areas of the mind that Freud termed mysticism.
But according to “A Dangerous Method” – the interesting film that’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema – the schism was mostly over a woman, a patient that Jung took as his mistress.
The storyline is historically accurate, a screenplay by Christopher Hampton based on his stage play “The Talking Cure,” which was based on John Kerr’s book called “A Most Dangerous Method,” which was largely based on actual letters between Jung and his estranged mentor.
Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung remain cornerstones in the field of psychoanalysis. And Sabina Spielrein was at first Jung’s hysterical pain-driven patient, later his mistress, then Freud’s pupil, and finally a respected psychoanalyst in her own right – as implausible as that might seem. But as Jung tells her, a doctor must suffer illnesses in order to be able to cure.
Director David Cronenberg used to be known for his splashy Canadian horror flicks (remember those exploding heads in “Scanners” and the murderous mutant children in “The Brood”?), but he has shown his true mettle in recent years with such films as “Crash” (winner of the Cannes Jury Special Prize), “Naked Lunch” (winner of the New York Film Critics Circle Award), “Dead Ringers” (winner of the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Director), “A History of Violence” (winner of the Chicago Film Critics Award for Best Director), and “Eastern Promises (winner of the Directors Guide of Canada’s Craft Award for Best Direction).
However, “A Dangerous Method” is a far subtler film than Cronenberg’s usual milieu. About the infamous Talking Cure, this is a talky movie.
The focus here is on Carl Gustav Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist who pioneered analytical psychology (sometimes called Jungian psychology). Hot British actor Michael Fassbender portrays Jung as a repressed man, ambitious for fame, competitive with his father figure Freud, but weak of flesh.
Twisting and twitching, Keira Knightley eschews her usual delicate beauty to unveil a character’s torturous psyche. Mad, vengeful, yet ultimately wise.
Practically unrecognizable behind goatee and cigar (“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”) we find Viggo Mortensen. He’s downright placid as Sigmund Freud, a far cry from his previous bare-knuckle-action roles for Cronenberg in “A History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises.”
Vincent Cassel (“Black Swan”) is cast as a hedonistic – and crazed – shrink who comes under Jung’s cure, only to convince the good doctor that monogamy is a useless concept. Sarah Gadon (“Dream House”) plays Emma, Jung’s rich wife who had rather not know about her husband’s affairs.
A sad movie despite its truth. Carl Jung, a victim of his baser self. Sigmund Freud, an iconoclast being pushed aside by a younger upstart. Sabina Spielrein, a reckless woman ruining careers for her own driven desires. Emma, Jung, a wife enduring her husband’s lifelong cuckoldry.
No winners here.
Unless it’s the audience. And those innumerable patients of the Talking Cure.