David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method is a competently-produced drama which should engage audiences for the most part. Momentum and intrigue peter off in the final third, but the film is an interesting watch overall.
Sabina Spielrein, a young Russian lady, is committed to the care of psychoanalyst Dr Carl Jung after suffering from manic episodes. Jung tries to treat his patient using Freud’s methods, enlisting the revered doctor’s opinion on the case. As Jung and Spielrein grow closer, the pchoanalist’s relationship with mentor Freud becomes strained…
A Dangerous Method explores a fascinating period in the history of psychology. Cronenberg’s film could have been more rooted in historical fact, and covered the main thinkers of the era. Instead, A Dangerous Method is more of a personal story, concentrating on Jung and his relationship with others. It is better for taking this option; the film shows a fallibility and humanness to the esteemed psychoanalyst.
The film begins at a good pace and captures the audience’s interest with the burgeoning relationship between Jung and his patient. The final third of the film loses its way a little, ending on more of a whimper than a bang. The issues of race and religion are highlighted a number of times throughout the film. Nonetheless, the lasting impression is of a narrative focused upon the power of intellectual discourse and the implications of difficult choices.
Michael Fassbender is superb as ever as Jung. Viggo Mortensen also delivers a strong performance as Freud. Keira Knightley is almost unwatchable at the beginning of A Dangerous Method, with her over-the-top mannerisms and suspect accent. Her performance is a lot better once the madness in her character subsides.
A Dangerous Method is flawed, but should be commended in illustrating what is essentially a series of intellectual discussions in a manner which makes the characters most human.
A Dangerous Method is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.