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I must admit, going into this film, I was rather excited; I've enjoyed
both of David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen's previous collaborations
and my interest in both Freudian psychology/psychoanalysis and Michael
Fassbender practically guaranteed that I would be seeing this film. I
fear now, however, that my expectations may have been a bit too high.
I must admit, however, that I thought that Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen played their roles very well, although Mortensen definitely didn't receive as much screen time as he deserved. Vincent Cassel definitely shone in his extended cameo as Otto Gross. I did have some issues with Keira Knightly's acting, however. I feel like she may have over exaggerated her actions, particularly in the beginning scenes where she is in the midst of hysteria.
However, my real problem with this film is that, for lack of a better term, it all seems a little too shallow. Events that should be important are skimmed over and not explained; to be honest, it doesn't particularly seem like anything of real importance happens in the film. The characters have little depth; despite the fact that they are all playing rather well known persons, there simply isn't anything to them other than a name. On top of this, despite what the taglines of the film and trailer seem to suggest, the relationship between Freud and Jung is hardly explored. For the most part, their scenes involve reading letters from the other. This is hardly compelling viewing.
Overall, I feel like this film would have been better if it had been longer. If the film had a running time of even two hours, compared to one and a half, more character development could have been inserted, particularly for Freud. In addition, more focus on Jung's relationship with Freud, rather than his relationship with Spielrein, would have been nice to see.
Here's hoping that any future collaborations between Cronenberg and Mortensen pack a bit more of a punch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I really expected more by this movie, I expected more pathos, but unfortunately it proved scarcely involving and too rational. Nothing to say against the perfect technical execution, and the good acting, but what is disappointing is the screenplay, which should have been, in my opinion, the most significant element of the picture. Dialogues are flat, too rationally aimed at conveying an encyclopedic definition of psychoanalysis, but incapable of conveying empathy towards any of the three main characters, Jung, Freud and Sabine Spielrein. In the end we do not get the depth of each character, and the subtlety of their relationship. Keira Knightely 's character is overacted, excessive,but in the end underdeveloped, just the prototype of a pathologically insane. Freud appears a weird old man, only caring for what the scientific community might think, but not as daring as we think he might have been, Jung is a pathetic unfaithful man, but with an inner fragility we cannot perceive fully. And the complexity of the relation analyst-patient as well as master-disciple never comes out. It's a movie that seems to promise plenty, seems to be always on the verge of revealing something, but never takes off, as if the director wanted to keep a distance from the handled subject, as if afraid of being swept away by the abyss of the human complex mind. Or maybe because the complexity is too great to be thoroughly revealed? maybe, but being this the reason, the result remains unconvincing.
What was the source of conflict which caused a gulf to form between
Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung? When we examine their personal and
professional lives, what turning points shaped their theories? What
were the storms which blew through the lives of Jung and Sabina
Spielrein? These are some of the questions this film attempts to
highlight, and in fact begins to touch upon.
Some of the most scintillating moments of "A Dangerous Method" are sexually bracing. But the audience is left feeling a bit orphaned. Do these carnal scenes truly address the significant thematic questions?
Here's my main beef with this film: I wanted to see more time spent on the rigorous conflict between Freud and Jung. I have a sincere interest in the life of Carl Jung, but in the end, I was not sufficiently satisfied. Having said that, the production design, scenery, and costuming were absolutely wonderful.
The somber, instinctual undercurrents of "A Dangerous Method" can be a bit hypnotic. But because the script suffers, I cannot fully come under its spell. As the rolling credits came up, I personally felt a bit deflated, as if a sweet was torn from my curious grasp. Although I think most films would do well with a tighter edit, this movie could have used an additional 30 minutes of character and plot development.
I appreciated the qualities which Fassbender brought to Carl Jung. Vincent Cassel was right on the mark as the impulsive Otto Gross. Jung's insecure wife Emma was tenderly portrayed by Sarah Gadon.
Although Keira Knightley tried her best to portray Sabina Spielrein, there were certain scenes where her delivery seemed pushed. I have long respected Viggo Mortensen, but I was not fully convinced by his affected portrayal of Freud.
So, who would I cast as Sabina? Emily Mortimer, Helena Bonham Carter, or Rachel Weisz come to mind. And how about the part of Freud? Ben Kingsley, Dustin Hoffman, or Geoffrey Rush could have added a riveting twist to this role.
Is there a doctor in the house? I will leave that for you to decide.
I've only read very few of Jung's and Freud's abstracts of work but
i've always been interested in knowing a bit more. A Dangerous Method
cleared some of my questions and was pleasant for me to watch and learn
a thing or two about their contributions and contradictions in
What is emphasized in this film is their well known "disagreement" on sexual activity (libido) and apparently religion. Something that's been brought here by a female patient of Jung, Sabina Spielrein -played by Keira Knightley, who's been diagnosed with hysteria and was admitted to Burghölzli Clinic in Zürich in 1906. Michael Fassbender (Jung) and Viggo Mortensen (Freud) both performed seriously and insightful and Knightley captured pretty well the behavior of a hysteric person and then, her transition through therapy.
The German locations where the filming took place were picturesque and the atmosphere was warm, theatrical, peaceful enough but rather slow at some points. The intense relationship between the Austrian neurologist and the Swiss psychiatrist was very interesting to watch nevertheless.
The reason i enjoyed this film is simple: It was exactly what i was expecting it to be. Educational. And the fact that a talented cast did their best to bring out on the screen such facts, has left me a satisfied watcher full of interest and food for thoughts.
As a long admirer of David Cronenberg, I eagerly await each of his new
films as if I am a young child on Christmas Eve. When announced that
his new film, A Dangerous Method, had him working with Michael
Fassbender and (for a third time) Viggo Mortensen, two of my favorite
actors, as well as Keira Knightley and Vincent Cassel, I thought I must
have been dreaming. Adding on that the film was going to be an
exploration into the relationship between Carl Jung (portrayed by
Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Mortensen), the gods of psychoanalysis,
and this had the makings for Cronenberg's masterpiece. So one can only
begin to imagine my dismay when, after a promising first act, A
Dangerous Method turned out to be the most inordinately tame and
pedestrian Cronenberg film in over thirty years.
David Cronenberg made a name for himself in the film community thanks to his studies into dark, controversial topics of sexual obsessions and fetishes, so a story depicting the works of Jung and Freud seemed like a perfect fit for him, and I was hardly able to process how lazily he approached the minds of these men. The first act felt like punch after punch (in a good way), with very stern, rapid dialogues detailing the sexual desires of Sabina Spielrein (Knightley), a new patient of Jung's. Despite Knightley's hilariously hammy performance, which had me close to fits of laughter every time she unhinged her jaw or thrashed about the room hysterically, each scene sizzled with sexual tension and was nailed with precision by Fassbender's stoic portrayal.
Anyone who knows the history of the story (or has seen the trailer) knows that Jung and Spielrein eventually engage in a sexual relationship of their own and I believe the release of this tension between the two of them is where the film starts to fall of it's axis. After the incredibly intense and erotic first act, featuring a scene where Jung runs a test on his wife (Sarah Gadon) that is as gripping as anything in cinema this past year, the whole thing begins to fizzle out when that tension is released and it only becomes more and more flat as it goes on.
Whenever Jung and Freud are in the same room together the film begins to light back up, as Fassbender and Mortensen engage in a tete-a-tete for the ages, both men succumbed by their intelligence and arrogance to the point where they refuse to see the other as their equal despite their claims to be doing just that. Watching these two marvelously talented actors bounce of each other, it's devastating that the rest of the film couldn't measure up to their skill, and that half of their scenes interacting together are done through them opening notes from one another. The story spreads it's time (quite distractingly) between the Jung/Freud dynamic and the Jung/Spielrein one, and it's in the latter that it completely misses the mark.
Once that sexual tension is released, the chemistry between these two practically ceases to exist and each scene feels like a dull exercise in the standard infidelity plot line. When the film reaches it's final act and there are scenes of forced attempts at emotional payoffs, it's impossible to feel anything because I wasn't able to feel anything from the relationship the entire time leading up to it. There's no real progression in their relationship on anything but a surface level and as a result the payoff falls completely flat.
It certainly doesn't help that, for all of the controversial eroticism in his career past, Cronenberg takes on the carnal moments of this story with the lazy banality of someone much inferior to himself. Several of the dialogue-driven scenes sizzle with a sexual intensity, but when matters are actually taken to the bedroom they are hit with a dullness that would be impossible to believe came from Cronenberg if he didn't have his name stamped on it. In a year that gave us Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In, the most Cronenbergian film I've seen that didn't come from the man himself, it's unbelievably disappointing that this one is so removed from the standard this genius deserves. It's unlike anything he's done before, and I mean that in the worst way possible.
It's always difficult to review a movie based on psychology because sometimes what's difficult to understand is too easily categorized as illogical or bad execution.I heard so much criticism towards the last movie by Cronenberg.I completely disagree with those bad reactions."A dangerous method"is a brilliant ,absorbing and thought provoking movie that boasts excellent performances by the three leading actors.The direction is great and Cronenberg once again shows his uncommon ability to tell a story in a very original way although the dialogs are sometimes hard to follow,probably due to its subject.But there are really breathtaking moments such as the scenes of the Spielrein therapy.This leads me to Knightley performance.It was a brave,shocking and terrific performance that it was criticized without a reason.I didn't catch all that hatred.She has always been so good("Pride e prejudice","Atonement" and "Never let me go")but here she left her comfort zone to bare herself and gives one of the most exiting performances of the year.Oscar worthy material.Fassbender was equally great in the role of Jung and it's a pleasure to watch this splendid rising A-list actor.Mortensen was good but I fear not as good as Fassbender and Knightley.Cassell is always Cassell.He's a good actor but he plays always the role of the daring man.I think that "A dangerous method" is one of the best movies of the year.It succeeds to transcend from his particular story to focus on the hidden instincts associated with the human nature.My vote is 8/10.
I can't remember the last time when I have been so much in disagreement with the general critical response for a movie Everywhere I look I seem to hear and read high praises for Cronenberg's latest work, and yet I am willing to bet that few of those who claimed to like it so much would be ready to watch it again. As far as I am concerned I am struggling to find something positive to say (well, yes, nice costumes ) and the only reason why my vote isn't any lower is because I am willing to admit that I might have not been in the right mood for it. Even in his most flawed films, Cronenberg has always been an interesting director, or at least able to create not only an almost palpable atmosphere, but also a particularly defined style and vision which set him apart from the usual Hollywood crowd. And yet this one seems a film with no direction whatsoever. Not only each sequence felt random and inconsequential as if not necessarily edited in the right order, without any real feeling of natural progression from the previous one into the next, but also it was all so static and lifeless that sometimes I even wondered whether anyone was actually directing at all. At no point I felt any sympathy for any of the character: in fact, not only I did not like any of them, but I didn't even hate them either. I just didn't care. And this is is a rather strange thing to say, because on paper, a film about the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud (and consequently the birth of psychoanalysis) sounded to me very intriguing indeed. Sadly, pretty earlier on into "A dangerous Method" I realised that this wasn't really the type of film I was hoping to see. I found myself uneasy right from the word "go", that is from the moment I saw Keira Knightley overacting like never before and stretching her chin to new unbelievable levels, as if screaming to the audience "I want that Oscar!!". Well, darling, not this time. Then, after the early screams, it all calmed down a bit and the dialogue started and that's when it got worse! For a film which should rely on words more than action itself (especially given the static nature of it all), I found the script absolutely puerile. It all felt like it was written by a high school kid, who's just heard a few things about Freud and wants to impress his friend with his newly acquired knowledge. I mean, there are actually lines like "You Freud, have always sex in your mind. Why does everything always has to do with sex?"! Really? Mr Hampton, who are you writing this script for? Surely your target audience doesn't need things spell out so boldly and blatantly. It was like reading a checklist of all the possible clichés one could think about psychoanalysis (and Freud in particular). Who is this film for anyway? At times it felt like it was so ridiculously basic, as if it was written for people who have never even heard of Freud and Jung. Other times it was all so riddled with heavy handed quotes and so "up its own self" that it felt like watching some boring lecture given by an even more bored teacher, sitting on your old desk back in school. From such a renowned scriptwriter (he wrote Dangerous Liaisons and Atonement among the other things) I was expecting a lot more: maybe Mr Hampton should watch a few episodes of HBO's classy "In Treatment" to learn a thing of two about the subtlety of bringing psychoanalysis to the screen. As far as the two leading male actors (Fassbender and Mortensen, who by the way was so good in both Cronenberg "A History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises"), they were as good as they could possibly be, but in the end they both failed to impress, move, or even raise any sort of emotion beyond boredom. But then again, that's hardly surprising given both the script they were actually given and a clear lack of any direction, which forced them to talk at each other in the most contrived scenes and badly staged, where even the extras in the background seemed fake and moved slowly and gently like erm well, extras (particularly noticeable in the scene by the river). Sorry David, not this time for me
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sabina Spielrein was one of the first female psychoanalysts, a
fascinating achievement given the fact that she was committed to a
mental institution for an entire year. After studying medicine and
child psychology in Zurich, graduating in 1911, and getting elected
into the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, she proposed an idea in 1912,
namely that the human sexual drive contained both an instinct of
destruction and an instinct of transformation. Her death in 1942 at the
hands of an SS death squad would all but erase her from the history
books until her hospital records, journal entries, and letters to and
from Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud were discovered and published; it's
now widely accepted within psychiatric circles that her 1912 proposal
greatly influenced the works of both men.
Spielrein is one piece of the puzzle in David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method." We follow her, Jung, and Freud in a story that examines their complex relationship, which is simultaneously strengthened and threatened by their field of interest. Academically, they recognize the frailties of the human mind and strive to steer others in socially acceptable directions. Personally, they continuously fall victim to the mental weaknesses they so carefully study, and they become increasingly aware that social acceptability doesn't necessarily translate to common practice. Strange, how even those who categorize people into absolutes can themselves fall within ambiguous parameters. Perhaps it's those very absolutes that drive people towards unhealthy behaviors.
One focus is the relationship between Jung and Spielrein, which begins in 1904 and develops over the course of nearly a decade. Initially, Jung (Michael Fassbender) was a fledgling twenty-nine-year-old psychologist, who was married to a gentle but passive woman named Emma (Sarah Gadon) and was expecting his first child. Spielrein (Keira Knightley), Russian-born but able to speak fluent German, was a violent, severely traumatized eighteen-year-old mental patient placed under Jung's care, having been diagnosed with hysteria. Under an experimental form of therapy known as "the talking cure," Jung sits behind Spielrein and listens as she struggles to verbalize her problems. She eventually reveals a childhood marred by beatings and humiliation at the hands of her father. Further sessions unwittingly reveal a sexual proclivity: She becomes uncontrollably aroused by physical force.
This discovery brings Jung into the life of his mentor, Freud (Viggo Mortensen), as it validates his theory that sexuality and emotional disorders are intertwined. As the years pass, what began as a cordial, clinical acquaintanceship deteriorates into a stubborn clash of ideologies; Jung becomes increasingly bothered by Freud's unwillingness to reconsider his theories about sex, whereas Freud cannot tolerate Jung's growing interest in spirituality. During their initial correspondence, Freud refers Jung to a psychiatrist-turned-patient, Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel), a drug addicted hedonist; his arguments against monogamy inspire Jung to violate his code of ethics and begin an affair with Spielrein, which continues long after she ceases to be his patient and enrolls in medical school. This is not merely a physical attraction. He has truly fallen in love with her.
I have no way of knowing how historically accurate this film is, given the fact that the relationship between Jung and Spielrein has never been substantiated. There is, however, some compelling evidence of their affair, most notably the fact that, unlike Freud, Jung never publicly acknowledged Spielrein's influence on his work. Rumors of other extramarital affairs also continue to circulate. Given this history, it's easy to see why Jung is portrayed as a weak man in the film intellectually brilliant but emotionally stunted, consumed by guilt over a situation he could have prevented. He continues having children with his wife, and yet he cannot detach himself from Spielrein, who may be troubled but is also incredibly intelligent and sincere.
The screenplay by Christopher Hampton, adapted from his stage play "The Talking Cure" (itself adapted from John Kerr's nonfiction book "A Most Dangerous Method"), is well suited for the actors, the dialogue clever, elegant, and packed with emotion. In true psychological form, every line suggests a hidden meaning. This is especially apparent with Freud, portrayed as a piercing intellectual who isn't interested in solutions so much as the underlying problems which, it seems, all stem from the sexual organs. His scenes with Jung flow like verbal ping pong matches. The scenes with Jung and Spielrein are fascinating in that they're founded on more than curiosity, desire, and passion; they depict the birth of a psychological movement. Herein lies the greatest strength of "A Dangerous Method": It's a film to be listened to and not just watched.
-- Chris Pandolfi (www.atatheaternearyou.net)
Given his entire filmography is concerned with themes linked to man's
identity and the complexities of human sexuality, David Cronenberg is,
on paper at least, the ideal director for A Dangerous Method, a movie
dealing with the birth of psychoanalysis. Then again, the film is also
a bit of an odd fit for him, since the script by Christopher Hampton
(Dangerous Liaisons) doesn't really lend itself to the outbursts of
graphic violence that permeate the Canadian auteur's body of work. The
result, first witnessed at the Venice Film Festival (after the film had
allegedly been rejected by Cronenberg's fest of choice, Cannes), is an
interesting but somewhat hollow entry in the director's admirable
Ostensibly about the professional relationship between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), A Dangerous Method is in reality more concerned with the bond between Jung and Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), a young woman sent to his clinic in Zurich since her mental condition is an ideal subject for his research. Sabina, it turns out, is incredibly well-read, and soon progresses from patient to assistant, much to the amusement of Freud, who corresponds regularly with Jung about their mutual scientific interests and also meets the young woman on a few occasions. The relationship between the three evolves in even stranger ways as time passes, with Sabina taking an unexpected place in Jung's heart...
With its combination of psychoanalysis and sex, the story - perhaps familiar to European film buffs thanks to Roberto Faenza's Italian-language take on the same subject - has all the right characteristics to be vintage Cronenberg (hints of which are offered in the opening and closing credits via Howard Shore's music). And yet there's something missing: whereas the reconstruction of Vienna in the early 20th century is impeccable, the director appears to be less interested in the actual development of story and character, with a rather detached approach that suggests he's almost working on autopilot. That having said, part of the blame can be laid on Hampton, whose screenplay only glosses over key details of the story, leaving us with a quite simplified, "safe" version of events (the sex is unusually tame and unchallenging for a Cronenberg film).
The performances are a mixed bag as well: Knightley, stuck with the showy role, is unbearably OTT in the first 30 minutes, shouting and shaking endlessly before she eventually tones down the mania and focuses on finding the character, complete with a solid Russian accent. At the other end of the spectrum is Mortensen, pitch-perfect from the start but criminally underused, especially considering his past associations with Cronenberg. And then there's Fassbender, quietly intense and generally up to the task, were it not for his decision to speak RP English when he and Mortensen, who adopts a German accent, are supposed to be from the same country (this is even more perplexing if one thinks of Fassbender's flawless mastery of German).
A Dangerous Method is thus a textbook case of a film that, while not disappointing in the strict sense of the word, comes off as a minor effort in a generally spotless filmography. But even on an off-day, Cronenberg deserves to be seen at least once. Just don't expect another History of Violence...
I am a Cronenberg fan. I think a History of Violence is one of the greatest films ever made! I also think Eastern Promises showed what happens when a great Director pairs with an awesome muse. I anticipated this film eagerly but after watching it I was left with mixed feelings. Perhaps this is because the script was not as tight as that of the first two films I mentioned. It was never going to be easy capturing something as abstract as psychoanalysis on film, yet I can say that this film does ramble on at times and it is slow. A History of Violence was slow but the pay off was fantastic. Here there was no pay off. We were shown the lives of three great, complicated minds and that was it. After reading about the lives of the three central characters I can safely say that perhaps this was not the film Cronenberg should have made about Freud. He opted respectfully for the less dramatic and more factual and I think this sacrifice could have hurt what could have been another Cronenberg/Mortensen smash-hit. That said, I also think Keira Knightley was a mis-cast and Mortensen and Fassbender were as perfect as ever. Looking forward to the next Cronenberg flick. This wasn't awful but I expected more.
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