Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A Dangerous Method: Movie Review

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel

Director: David Cronenberg

Taken from the 2002 stage play, The Talking Cure which was in turn based on the 1993 book A Dangerous Method, we've now got the cinematic version from sometimes controversial director David Cronenberg.

Set in 1904, Fassbender, in another searingly good character performance is Dr Carl Jung who is a junior doctor and bored with dispensing prescriptions. Into his care is bundled Russian Sabina Spielrein (Knightley), a troubled soul with an horrific case of hysteria.

Jung decides that the only real way to treat Spielrein is to push on with his treatment of word association and dream analysis (the founding of psychoanalysis) and after some reticence on her behalf, he begins to break through.

Jung's methods bring him to the attention of Dr Freud (brilliantly played in a haze of constant cigar smoke and calm by Viggo Mortensen) and soon Jung's been adopted as Freud's heir apparent as the two lock horns and bond over theories and practices.

However, Jung's not just interested in Spielrein for her leaps forward in analysis and the field of psychoanalysis - there's also a strong sexual attraction between the pair. But, spurred on by his desire not to overstep the doctor/ patient threshold, he initially resists - only to give in and fully embrace the possibilities a wild relationship with Spielrein would offer him as opposed to a calmer time with his wife, who's given him children.

In amid the bondage and spanking, Jung starts to unravel as Freud hears of the affair and soon his standing within the community and colleagues is taking a beating...

A Dangerous Method is a stunning and tautly directed piece which benefits from thrilling performances from all involved.

From the initial scenes of Knightley screaming, wailing and jutting her jaw forward like a twitchy pitbull as she wallows in the grips of her hysteria to the back and forth verbal tension between Freud and Jung, it's an engrossing, if at times, starched film which has an undercurrent of repression running throughout.

Fassbender is simply brilliant as Jung as the one upmanship between the pair escalates and the tension has you on a knife edge; equally Knightley relatively impresses with what could be a one note character performance as she proffers up subtle layers to a woman caught in the middle - despite veering a little closely to being OTT - and Mortensen is a nonchalantly calming voice as Freud, lending an intellectual presence to the scenes his character appears in.

Occasionally given the film's material, there is a tendency toward a starched and detached tone, but thanks to a simple story of a man being tempted by lust -both intellectually and physically - A Dangerous Method is a highly watchable and fascinating piece which has a tendency to get under your skin.


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