A Dangerous Method (2011)

A Dangerous Method (2011)
  • Time: 99 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama | Thriller
  • Director: David Cronenberg
  • Cast: Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel, Keira Knightley

Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender star in director David Cronenberg’s adaptation of Christopher Hampton’s play detailing the deteriorating relationship between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. The year is 1904. Carl Jung (Fassbender), a disciple of Sigmund Freud (Mortensen), is using Freudian techniques to treat Russian-Jewish psychiatric patient Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) at Burgh‚ÄĚlzli Mental Hospital. But the deeper Jung’s relationship with Spielrein grows, the further the burgeoning psychiatrist and his highly respected mentor drift apart. As Jung struggles to help his patient overcome some pressing paternal issues, disturbed patient Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel) sets out to test the boundaries of the doctor’s professional resolve.


  • Michael Fassbender plays Carl Gustav Jung, Viggo Mortensen is Sigmund Freud and Keira Knightley plays Sabina Spielrein in this snapshot of the birth of modern Psychiatry. Sadly, director David Cronenberg never gets the pace right and the movie suffers because of this. The 3 principle actors do a good job (although Knightley does a poor fake European accent). There are times when it appears the film is being done in slow motion, such is Cronenbergs lack of feeling for tempo. It is a bold attempt…however…to cover an important piece of history. It is quite amazing how Fassbender and Mortensen looked so much like the characters they were playing. Although there are flaws here, I enjoyed this. The interplay between Jung and Freud is interesting and well done. The complex relationship between Jung and Spielrein is also fascinating in a psycho–sexual way. Not a bad movie, but should have been better

  • It is fair to say that Canadian director David Cronenberg has matured over the years as a filmmaker. The jury is still out as to whether his newfound direction in filmmaking belies his commitment to his unique craft and vision. Gone are the heady days of “body-horror” Cronenberg, a fascinating filmmaker whose bizarre and controversial films are stuffs of legend.

    His latest effort, A Dangerous Method, continues his vein of doing dramatic projects with compelling themes that started with the crime-thriller A History of Violence (2005), and continuing with the crime-drama Eastern Promises (2007).

    Now he explores a subject that is inherently less violent: psychoanalysis. A Dangerous Method is a brief chronicle of the key interactions between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung that gave birth to the controversial science of psychoanalysis.

    Viggo Mortensen plays Freud, while the ubiquitous Michael Fassbender plays Jung. Rounding up the leading cast is Keira Knightley, who plays Sabrina Spielrein, a patient of Jung, who aspires to be a doctor while not-so-quietly seducing her mentor. While Mortensen and Fassbender show that they can act with subtlety, Knightley’s performance is more eye-catching, and for some, for the wrong reasons.

    There are quarters who feel that Knightley is the sole blip in this well-made picture, with a performance that is exaggeratingly bad. But others, like myself, have no qualms about it. I think it is a performance that is deserving of some measure of appreciation, despite its attention-seeking nature.

    Cronenberg also pays remarkable attention to the film’s period setting, and his slow, tracking shots allow viewers to immerse themselves into the beauty of its art direction and set decoration. A Dangerous Method may seem slightly vacuous at certain parts, but its dialogue-driven screenplay provides ample room for an intellectually stimulating experience.

    Contrary to popular belief, A Dangerous Method is not so much about Freud, but about his frenemy Jung. Psychoanalysis is the glue that ties both of them together in a struggle to advance a grey area of medical science amid strong societal and academic opposition.

    While considerably less viscerally violent than the usual Cronenberg picture, A Dangerous Method does tap into the uncharted territory that is intellectual violence – the bloody mental battles that are waged for or against theories, concepts, and propositions as they hinder or seek for truth. It is a film that will appease the arthouse crowd, but ignore the mainstream folks who are likely to see it as a borefest.

    Verdict: While at times vacuous, this latest Cronenberg picture is still intellectually stimulating, and most certainly one for the arthouse crowd.

    GRADE: B

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