A Dangerous Method (2011) – Rated R for sexual content and brief language. Strangely even though Keira Kightley is nude in it, nudity isn’t part of the rating.
In this David Cronenberg-helmed biopic, Viggo Mortensen stars as Sigmund Freud, whose relationship with fellow psychology luminary Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) is tested when Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), one of the first female psychoanalysts, enters their lives. This World War I-set drama also stars Vincent Cassel as Otto Gross, a disciple of Freud, and Sarah Gadon, who plays Jung’s psychoanalyst wife.
David Cronenberg is one of my favorite directors. I loved his visceral horror movies, often focused on issues of body modification and identity. They were always intelligent and original. Even his remake of The Fly was original and reinvented the story in much the same way John Carpenter did with The Thing. Unfortunately for me, he is now an important director so horror has gone by the wayside.
Michael Fassbender is the star of A Dangerous Method and he does quite well as Carl Jung. He is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actors. He had wonderful supporting roles in Inglourious Basterds, 300 and Band of Brothers. He followed this up with proof that he can carry a movie in Centurion and was, forgive me, simply magnetic in X-Men First Class. Next up for Fassbender is the Ridley Scott science fiction opus Prometheus.
Cronenberg’s go-to actor appears to be Viggo Mortensen. Viggo was fantastic in Cronenberg’s last two films – A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. He is quite good in A Dangerous Method as Sigmund Freud but not quite as good as the two previous films. Still he instills a fair amount of gravitas as a father figure.
Keira Knightley is actually the astonishing one. Her portrayal of Sabina Spielrein requires a great deal of range and Keira gives quite freely of herself in this role. Vincent Cassel has a delightful time chewing up the scenery as the aptly named Dr. Gross. Sarah Gadon is just fine as Jung’s long-suffering wife but does not have as much to do as you might think.
The movie is a filmed version of a play and, in spite of the gorgeous locations used, seems like one. In spite of the cast listing there are really only five roles in the movie. The biggest flaw of the movie seems to be that of its subject matter. The movie comes across as very analytical and is of course combined with brief overviews of the works of Freud and Jung (although many of the latter’s more out there philosophies are only approached tangentially).
A Dangerous Method has very little action in it and is quite talky, albeit intelligently so. The parts of the film showing the disintegration of a professional relationship are riveting because Cronenberg and the actors make them so nuanced.
WARNING: A Dangerous Method is a very good film but it is not always an entertaining one. The first half in particular delves into a number of issues of sexual abuse/dysfunction and can be a little difficult to watch. It is not what I would call a “date film”.