A Dangerous Method (2011) Directed by David Cronenberg. With Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen.
Adapted from John Kerr’s 1993 non-fiction A Most Dangerous Method: The story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein, David Crononeberg’s film plays as a sometimes engaging but oddly disjointed delve into the worlds of two of the 20th Century’s most celebrated thinkers. Central to the story is the developing relationship between Carl Jung (Fassbender) and his patient Sabina (Knightley).
Before you’ve settled into your seat, you’re cast in at deep-end as we observe a traumatised Seline being carted off to hospital to begin a course of treatment for mental health problems stemming from closeted sexual cravings. I found Knightly’s physical depiction of a desperate woman suppressing basic urges, combined with her Russian accent, to be a curious mix of admirable commitment and the unintentionally funny. Either side of Knightley stand Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen, and it’s the screen-time between Jung and Freud that produce the films most favourably memorable moments.
Mortensen plays Freud with such consideration and intelligence that I found myself hanging on his every word. What hurts the film though is its structural tendency to leap years forward – giving the feeling of skim-reading over the fine details. One scene ends, another scene starts months or years later, which stultifies character growth and renders any emotional involvement difficult to embrace – which is especially problematic given that the central drive is building a love-story between Jung and Seline.
For any director, this isn’t easy material to convey, and because the story takes place over such a large period of time, perhaps a longer and more patient cut might have produced more satisfying results. As it stands, Cronenberg’s film sadly lacks the depth of its inspirational subjects. 2.5/5