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Review: A Dangerous Method (2011)

A Dangerous Method (2011)

Directed by: David Cronenberg

Premise: A dramatization of the relationship between Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen).

What Works: Viewers who are hardcore fans of director David Cronenberg will want to check out A Dangerous Method. His films have consistently dealt with the intersection of sexuality, the body, and identity and so a story about the origins of psychoanalysis would seem to suite Cronenberg well. For that reason, his dearest fans may get more out of A Dangerous Method than anyone as those viewers will be able to pick apart the ways in which this film fits into his filmography.

What Doesn’t: Director David Cronenberg is known for making bold motion pictures such as Videodrome, The Fly, Crash, and Naked Lunch. It is disappointing to discover that A Dangerous Method is not bold or even that interesting. This film is mostly just a bore; it isn’t shot in a very interesting way and the story is very flat with little dramatic rise and fall. The bulk of the picture is made of scenes of people talking about psychoanalysis but there is a disconnect between what the film purports to be about and the actual dramatic content of the film. Psychoanalysis is about exposing the repressed but everything about this movie is already on the surface. There is no deeper layer to any of the character’s actions or motivations. Instead of a dramatization of the pitfalls and perils of probing the unconscious, A Dangerous Method is instead a costume melodrama that isn’t far departed from a Lifetime Network midafternoon movie. And even as that it isn’t particularly rousing because the romantic relationship is uninteresting. Part of the problem is actress Keira Knightley. Although Knightley is a decent actress and has made strong dramatic performances in other films, she is miscast here. Knightley plays Sabina Spielrein, a Russian patient of Carl Jung, who later became both Jung’s research assistant and his mistress. Knightley is just not convincing in the role; her hysteria is so over the top that it becomes comical and her Russian accent makes her sound like a Cold War-era James Bond villain. When A Dangerous Method isn’t dealing with the romance it is mostly scenes of Freud and Jung writing letters to one another. This is a serious problem for the story, since the two men never come into a meaningful conflict. Just as the love story lacks any passion, the story of Jung and Freud’s professional relationship lacks a comparable bond. When Jung’s love life puts the integrity of psychoanalysis at risk A Dangerous Method is unable to create any drama because what is at risk is never made concrete and the relationship between the two men has no substance to it. As Jung and Freud drift further apart due to their professional differences, the film makes reference to each man’s ideas but the exposition is not well handled, and viewers who are not already familiar with Freud and Jung will probably find themselves confused. 

Bottom Line: A Dangerous Method is not very good at all. The picture never gets off the ground and what could have been an interesting take on the origins of psychoanalysis is a routine  and poorly written melodrama.

Episode: #373 (January 29, 2012)