A Dangerous Method


This Cronenberg film set in the early stages of the twentieth century leading up to the cataclysmic events of the First World War details the intricate and convoluted relationships between Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein . Each at some point was a leading light in their chosen field of psychiatry and psychology therefore creating a cerebral film driven by attempts to unravel and analyse what drove them in their ever increasingly inextricably linked personal and professional lives. Featuring strong performances from Viggo Mortensen (Freud), Michael Fassbender (Jung) and Keira Knightley (Spielrein) it is a beautifully shot film with amazing scenery perfectly capturing the Swiss retreat of Jung. It is also perfectly costumed and the plot and dialogue unravel with slow, deliberate pacing but there is something in the film which fails to ignite and raise it to the high standards we have come to expect from the participants.

What essentially seems to be the main problem is the dullness of the script which never really takes flight or makes the audience feel involved as anything other than a voyeur to a set of problems which at times seem merely indulgent. Knightley perhaps turns in the best performance as Spielrein who as one of the first women to be recognised as a psychoanalyst starts the film as a patient of Jung and hers is the character we actually see grow throughout the films duration. The introduction of Freud into the proceedings and the subsequent competitive nature of his relationship with Jung somehow feels understated and ultimately anti-climactic. Towards the end of their comradeship it feels as if they are merely trading insults, even if they are carefully worded insults in the guise of polite analytical remarks designed to cause the greatest offence, thus rupturing the progress and insights the combining of two great minds could have achieved working together. In the end both made astonishing inroads of their own with differing perspectives so perhaps the loss is not tragic after all and the sniping whilst appealing, perhaps, to students of psychology and analysis is unlikely to hold the interest of cinema goers..

Not much else happens throughout the film other than the intricacies of Jung and Freud’s relationship and Jung’s affair with Spielrein and at times it seems to drag. At one point the audience is informed two years have passed since the last scene and, to be honest, it very much felt like it had played out in real time. It is beautifully scenic and the performances are strong and although this occasionally went some way to making up for the slow pacing it unfortunately was not often enough.

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