A Dangerous Method

Michael Fassbender

 Keira Knightly

reviewed by Tom-Tom

starstarhalf star

The history of psychology is long and vast originating from times when “crazy people” were said to have devils inside of them. “A Dangerous Method”opens with Keira Knightly’s character Sabina Spielrein screaming and being hauled away not to a madhouse but into the care of Carl Jung played by Michael Fassbender. Jung is a classily composed physician nonplussed at the erratic behavior of his patients. He listens with the patience of a saint to their ravings. He is married to a quaint ginger wife who is with child. His method of helping is patients is relatively new but not yet revolutionary: “The Talking Cure.” He sits behind patients both in straight backed chairs not the traditional leather couch of popular lore. He doesn’t know Sigmund Freud personally at this point but is advised by his wife to seek him out. Freud is played by the great Viggo Mortensen, who again demonstrates his ability to melt into any character perfectly changing his appearance, accent, tsks etc. until it has a lived-in air. The German speakers all use British accents while Keira Knightly’s Russian Jew adopts a Russian one. Her bouts of madness contort her normally beauteous countenance into grotesque, ghastly shapes. Nevertheless, Jung sees potential in her as a psychiatrist in her own right. Her ability to profile the feelings and mindsets of others is proven early on. The meeting of the two greats is somewhat anti-climatic as Freud seems to have plateaued into associating any and everything in sexual terms. Jung doesn’t discount the significance of sexuality in many psychological ailments but wishes instead to have a more holistic approach to the then new field of what was not yet seen as science.

Otto Gross, a restless psychoanalyst comes into Jung’s care played by Vincent Cassel, who previously collaborated with director David Cronenberg in “Eastern Promises”. Although Gross has a calm manner, he fervently espouses the wonders of polygamy and not wasting any experience that emotional and sexual drives lead one to. He questions Jung’s monogamy and tells the joys of bedding patients.

This is a quiet, introspective film about repressed desire and the flowering of a new way of thinking about mental health. It is also the tale of a parting of the ways between two of the greatest thinkers in the young field. Jung isn’t without his flaws and tends to stray to the side of mysticism in addition to his carefully measured scientific methods. Freud is quietly obstinate and somewhat patronizing about his views and gives many logical reasons as to why he cares not to branch out beyond sexuality as root of all matters of the human psyche. The movie’s best parts feature the intriguing psychological discussions between any two of Jung, Freud, or Spielrein and their various letters of correspondence. The almost obligatory romantic side trips get more and more tedious. The last scene reminded me a bit of Michael Corleone at the end of Godfather Part II for some reason. All three of the main cast members give convincing performances but I didn’t feel as if I came away from the film with anything new or exciting to write home about.

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