Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—A Dangerous Method (2011) ***

R, 99 min.
Director: David Cronenberg
Writers: Christopher Hampton (also play “The Talking Cure”), John Kerr (book “A Most Dangerous Method”)
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Sarah Gadon, Vincent Cassel

“A Dangerous Method” is director David Cronenberg’s latest peek into the twisted nature of the mind. This one doesn’t play like a video game on meth, or a writer’s grand paranoia, or the obsession of a perverse video voyeur. No, his subject this time around is real, based upon the theories and practices of two of histories greatest students and teachers of the mind.

Carl Jung was credited with putting Sigmund Freud’s “talking cure” into general practice to treat patients exhibiting symptoms of psychological trauma. To put it more simply, he created the practice of psychiatry. One of his early patients was Sabina Spielrein, with whom it has been speculated he had and extramarital affair. “A Dangerous Method” is Cronenberg’s look at how this affair may have been shaped and how it may have shaped Jung and the development of psychotherapy.

It was during this time that Jung formed a friendship with Freud, which is also depicted here. Cronenberg speculates that it was the lies Jung told to hide his affair from Freud that drove their working friendship apart. What seems to fascinate Cronenberg most about these events is how they may have shaped the world view of psychotherapy and how such fledgling theories can take hold of the lives that shape them in ways that come from the experimental mind set necessary to form them.

“A Dangerous Method” is not one of Cronenberg’s best movies. Like so many of his films, the story and characters are so wrapped up within themselves that it seems claustrophobic and exclusionary of the surrounding world. With such public figures as Jung and Freud, however, I feel this cinematic environment leaves too many questions unanswered and doesn’t allow for enough historical juxtaposition.

That’s not to say the film isn’t good. It’s just doesn’t carry the power of “A History of Violence” or “Eastern Promises”. It isn’t riveting, but it contains three wonderful performances by Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, and Viggo Mortensen. Certainly for those interested in these historical figures, the film is satisfying and worth the watch. It just seems like it could’ve been more.

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