The plot concerns the clash between Freud and Jung (Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender) particularly regarding Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), a hysterical patient of Jung’s who becomes his lover and later his colleague. It’s serviceable stuff and the performances from the male leads are suitably reserved. Knightley, however, goes for broke, filling each of her early scenes with tics, yelps and chin thrusts. Brave stuff and evidence she is developing well as an actor but she seems to be in another film entirely; one far less stuffy. Vincent Cassel also turns in a stand-out supporting role as a competing psychologist driven completely by his own impulses.
The sex scenes are clinical and unengaging, clearly a directorial choice as Cronenberg is apt at portraying the sensual, but in a film where all anyone does is talk about sex, the impact of sex and the effects of sex on human psychology wouldn’t it have been apt have sex scenes that did more that bore? Crash had much more to say in this area without the benefit of Freud and Jung on tap to discuss matters. The film is based on Christopher Hampton’s play The Talking Cure and never has a title been so appropriate.
It might seem beside the point to continually compare A Dangerous Method to Cronenberg’s past work but even Eastern Promises, his most mainstream film to date, had some visceral scenes which made audiences sit up and pay attention. It’s not that A Dangerous Method is a terrible film or even actually a bad one. It’s well shot, beautifully designed, boasts a strong score from Howard Shore and serves as a perfectly fine character study, especially Fassbender’s Jung. The film also succeeds as a historical drama. The pre-WW2 setting and the fact that the characters are based on real people made the end captions concerning their fates rather poignant.
The main issue is that it’s a missed opportunity. If Cronenberg went with his gut rather than his head this could have been something really special. You might be better off watching Shivers with a copy of The Ego and the Id on your lap to see how Cronenberg can really relate to Freud.
Dissapointing. A decent commentary from Cronenberg is joined by the most perfunctory of Making-Ofs. Given the nature of the material there was a wealth of subjects which could have been explored but no effort seems to have gone in whatsoever.