Director: David Cronenberg
What with “Shame,” “Jane Eyre” and now “A Dangerous Method,” it seems that Michael Fassbender is everywhere at the moment. It also seems that he’s consistently playing people who – to put it delicately – enjoy some of the more carnal delights in life. His latest film seems him take on the role of Dr. Carl Jung, one of the founders of modern psychoanalytic theory. It not only looks at his fractured relationship with Sigmund Freud, but also at a torrid affair he conducted with one of his patients.
In 1904 Russian born Sabina Spielrei (Keira Knightley, who sometimes seems to rely on strange facial tics and an even stranger accent) is admitted to a Swiss mental hospital under the care of Jung, who is eager to try the new ‘talking cure’ popularized by Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen, who is a fine foil for Fassbender). As Speilrei’s mental health improves – and she plans to enter medicine – it seems Freud’s theories have been proven by Jung. But the mentor and master relationship between Freud and Jung is stretched to breaking point when it becomes clear that Jung is having a sexual relationship with Speilrei.
Based on the play “The Talking Cure,” the film’s theatrical origins are quite apparent with many moments in the film given over to large chunks of dialogue explaining psychoanalytic theory. Those learning the subject may find it a useful respite from textbooks but it does sometimes mean the film is rather flat. Similarly, given that the entire film is meant to revolve around the relationship between Freud and Jung, their difficult relationship comes across as more of a professional disagreement as opposed to a dramatic moment in the history of modern medicine.
At times the quite graphic sexual content seems an attempt to imbue the film with some life, but despite some good performances, the film never quite escapes its theatrical nature.