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A Dangerous Method

A movie directed by David Cronenberg.

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Follows the "method" perhaps a little too closely to be great.

  • Apr 29, 2012
*** out of ****

How you feel about David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" is dependent the most on just how much you know about the topic of the film, psychoanalysis. Those who work closely in the field as profession are likely to write it off as inaccurate and unconvincing, while those who know most of the basics and at least some of the complexities would be expected to enjoy and embrace the film with open arms, as I did. Starting off, I don't know too much about psychoanalysis myself; although it's saying something that I was able to be thoroughly entertained all the same. Cronenberg, stepping outside of his comfort zone yet again and delivering a respectably solid historical drama about two of the founding fathers of psychoanalysis, certainly sugarcoats a few of the juicy details surrounding the film's fascinating true story; although in this day and age, he still manages to do - and show - more than the average filmmaker, allowing him to go to some particularly dark and intriguing places.

The film's posters typically show the three main characters. They are Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), and Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). Sabina is a beautiful young woman suffering from extreme panic attacks brought on by a very severe case of hysteric schizophrenia, who is transferred to a very prestigious psychiatric hospital located in Zurich, where she is treated under the supervision of Dr. Carl Jung. Sabina proves to be an interesting new patient - abused by her father as a child, aroused by the wounds obtained from the various beatings she suffered, and finally being diagnosed with her "hysteria" - and Jung believes her to be the key that leads to a great discovery in the field of psychoanalysis and the intellectual evolution that allows it to thrive.

This is where Freud comes in. He believes that the sexual experiences that one has during the childhood years influence whatever mental illness they may soon develop in later stages of life; and so perhaps this is the case with Sabina. Jung has been inspired and influenced by Freud's own discoveries throughout his career, and cannot deny the man's brilliance, or his own for the matter. However, Jung's morality is put to the test when Freud sends over a brilliant but zany fellow psychoanalysis named Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel) to his hospital. You see, Otto is a bit of a sex addict, and notices the sexual tension that arises in the relationship between Jung and Sabina. He encourages Jung to make a move so long as the patient invites him to do so, and when she does, so begins a complicated love triangle (between Jung, Sabina, and a very jealous Sigmund Freud). Otto, of course, has no part in it. If he did, Cassel's face would have appeared on the poster along with the others.

Cronenberg's techniques are arresting and adjusted to near-perfection, even if the techniques themselves were far from flawless to begin with. He is a master director, but I know for a fact that - while this is still an exceptionally made piece of work - it isn't his best film by far. Nevertheless, the conversations between Jung and Freud are intellectually stimulating in every way; and we have both Mortensen and Fassbender to thank for that. Both actors embody their respective roles so well, and I can't imagine anyone else playing the roles quite like they do. In this sense, "A Dangerous Method" becomes a dialogue-driven character study when the two are on screen together and just an average period drama when they're not. That's not to say that I'm complaining in the slightest; I just wish that every piece of this very complex and multi-dimensional puzzle had been created equal.

Obviously, when dealing with a historical piece like this, a filmmaker must pay great attention and supply the audiences with much detail in regards to the era that they are so desperately attempting to capture; or rather, re-capture. More or less, I think Cronenberg achieved just about all that he could; I don't know a great deal about the real-life story that inspired the book (written by John Kerr) that went on to inspire the movie, although I can only assume that the director did his best to stay genuinely faithful to the source. Some might argue my point just by watching the first few minutes of the film - in which Keira Knightly is required to freak out like a good schizophrenic would - , and many have criticized her performance in these scenes (not so much the ones that follow) as "extreme over-acting", but Cronenberg seems to believe that his portrayal of these people and their time period are both very true to life and how it once was, so I'll take his word for it.

While I was very much engaged by the film and the story that it wanted to tell, I will not deny that the experience in full is hampered down severely by some very notable flaws. At about 90 minutes or so, the film is short and fast-paced, but therein lies one of its biggest problems; it doesn't exactly take its sweet little time in introducing and studying each and every little detail that it's covering. In this sense, it never feels particularly memorable, although I'm not one to deny the entertainment value of it all. By sacrificing absolute perfection, Cronenberg is able to make a well-mounted slice of crowd-pleasing dramatic filmmaking. It remains an intelligent character study and a richly satisfying drama from the first frame to the last, but for all the striking cinematography, beautiful music, and extravagant leading (and supporting) performances; it should have been great thoroughly, instead of just great in long stretches.

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April 30, 2012
Cronenberg is a good director but sometimes, lately his creations haven't been perfect. I have ordered this since netflix seems to be holding this out from me. Nice review!
More A Dangerous Method reviews
review by . November 24, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Sabina Spielrein was one of the first female psychoanalysts, a fascinating achievement given the fact that she was committed to a mental institution for an entire year. After studying medicine and child psychology in Zurich, graduating in 1911, and getting elected into the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, she proposed an idea in 1912, namely that the human sexual drive contained both an instinct of destruction and an instinct of transformation. Her …
review by . December 09, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Too methodical to be dangerous
A DANGEROUS METHOD Written by Christopher Hampton Directed by David Cronenberg Starring Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley and Viggo Mortensen   Otto Gross: If there is one thing I’ve learned in my short life, it’s this: Never repress anything.   Canadian director, David Cronenberg, is synonymous with exploring sexuality and psychology on screen. In his latest epic, A DANGEROUS METHOD, he lets our minds get lost amidst these two forces as they intersect in Austria …
review by . November 21, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'A Dangerous Method' 'Two Jews On Film' Only One Is Psyched By Cronenberg's Latest
      By Joan Alperin-Schwartz      Sigmund Freud...Carl Jung...So what comes to mind when you hear these two names?...Certainly not, the director David Cronenberg. who's more known for making twisted, dark horror/scifi('The Brood', 'Scanners' 'The Fly) than cerebral relationship dramas.      But with his new film, 'A Dangerous Method' that's about to change.  This is the story of three people...Sigmund …
Quick Tip by . January 06, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Hello there!    Anyone interested in a little extra insight into A DANGEROUS METHOD, should check out my interview with director, DAVID CRONENBERG here:    http://blacksheepreviews.blogspot.com/2012/0...s-david-cronenberg.html    Thanks for reading!
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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