A Dangerous Method

David Cronenberg’s earlier films such as Shivers, Scanners and The Fly redefined the horror genre at the time, and his later work like Naked Lunch and Crash further explored this use of ‘body horror’ as well as issues of drug addiction and unusual relationships (to say the least). His most recent films, A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, at first glance seem to be more about family drama. But when you look at them closely you can still see his usual themes of gore, violence and sex present throughout. This is also the same for his latest film, A Dangerous Method.

Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) is a new patient diagnosed with hysteria who is brought to a facility run by Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender). He decides to cure her using a new method taught by Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen): the talking cure. Jung soon establishes some dark incidents in Sabina’s past that have made her the way she is now. But soon he becomes entangled in her life as well as in a verbal battle of wits with the very person he looks up to: Freud himself.

A Dangerous Method is a film full of a lot of talking. A lot of psychological and analytical talking. This is not necessarily a flaw with the film: it’s obviously going to have a lot of discussion given the subject matter. But sometimes the talk is so hard to follow you become completely lost and can’t keep up with it all. And for a film all about the discussion and analysis of sex, it’s also surprisingly not that shocking. The ‘punishment’ scenes are brief and not particular graphic, although definitely still difficult to watch. It’s certainly nowhere near as controversial as Cronenberg’s big banned one: Crash.

However one good thing about A Dangerous Method is that Cronenberg and writer Christopher Hampton have created a window into these iconic figures lives. Having life breathed into people who you’ve only ever read about through their theories is truly interesting. Also in the case of Sabina it’s astonishing how she hasn’t been made more of a prominent figure in history as she clearly carried out groundbreaking work in her later life, so hearing about her bizarre story is fascinating.

The person breathing life into Sabina is Keira Knightley. I still can’t actually decide whether she was good in this or not. Her earlier scenes when she’s first brought to the facility and she is thrashing about in madness are either genius…or complete overacting. Once you get used to her bizarre accent though and she grows as a character she is occasionally good. But there is still something that doesn’t feel entirely right about Knightly being cast as her.

Michael Fassbender is great as Jung in another title role that firmly establishes him as the new go-to guy for pretty much any film that’s being made now. But it is Viggo Mortensen who absolutely steals the entire movie whenever he is onscreen. He makes an excellent Freud and any scene in which Mortensen and Fassbender talk/argue about their methods is riveting to watch – the chemistry between them is great. Also Vincent Cassel gives a brilliant performance as Austrian psychoanalyst Otto Gross, even though he’s only onscreen for about 5 minutes.

A Dangerous Method is definitely not one of Cronenberg’s better works and doesn’t get to the heights of the superb Eastern Promises. It also feels like it drags for a lot of the time, especially towards the end when time suddenly jumps ahead and nothing of particular significance happens. If you are a fan of Cronenberg then you should definitely see it, but if you’re looking for a film with a lot of action then this is one to avoid and maybe wait for on DVD.

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~ by square-eyed-geek on February 26, 2012.

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