55th BFI London Film Festival: A Dangerous Method Review

A Dangerous Method (2011)

Freud and Jung undoubtedly have gone down in history for their work on psychoanalysis. Their ideas and biographies have kindled the imagination of not only the researchers from different disciplines, but also ordinary people. This is evident through David Cornenberg’s (The Fly, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises) new film  ‘A Dangerous Method’.

The Swiss clinic, where Carl Gustav Jung works (Michael Fassbender: Shame, Hunger, Band of Brothers), welcomes a new patient – Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley: Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina),who claims she is not crazy, however it is difficult to ignore the spasms that distort her beautiful body in grotesque shapes and the discussions of her inner voices. Doctor Jung decides to treat the patient with a new method: psychoanalysis that has been created by the Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen : Lord of the Rings, Eastern Promises, The Road, A Perfect Murder).

I have to admit I am not convinced that this film will fill out cinemas,although it may do so because of the actors.The fact remains that in the flood of blockbuster productions, where the characters do nothing but pummel each other and crash cars, the new work of Cronenberg stands out a little. It is a blockbuster but it is a costume drama. The director shortens the plot, simplifies the message and treats the subject superficially. The film maker presents a story of a relationship between teacher and student as well as their friendship which gets rougher as the film progresses. The film however (despite the costumes and dusty setting) is an interesting and convincing one. What the director fails in doing, however, is to present the concepts and research interests of Freud and Jung.

‘A Dangerous Method’ points out some of the issues they faced, but lists them only as slogans. This creates chaos so that those unfamiliar with the subject of psychoanalysis will find themselves lost. What is more frequently presented is the love story between Sabina and Jung, and the discussions between the two seem chaotic to me. I had the impression that the director made them begin a discussion only to stop after a few minutes, this was probably a way not to bore the viewer and also to make time for other events. We see Mortensen, Fassbender and Knightley constantly changing on screen, yet nothing more meaningful comes out of it.  In the long run, this practice becomes convenient. Perhaps if the film makers had not restricted themselves to 90 minutes and developed their work more, it would have allowed enough time, not only to develop the love story better, but also to include the comprehensive scientific discussions between Jung, Freud and Spielrein.

The film is pleasing to the eye but nothing more than that.

Reviewed by Maggie Gogler

Edited by Roxy Simons.

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