Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Biography, Drama, Historical
Opens locally Friday, January 20th, 2012
Run Time: 1 hour 39 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley, Vincent Cassel
Written by Christopher Hampton, based on the 2002 play The Talking
Cure which was based on the 1993 non-fiction book A Most Dangerous Method by John Kerr
Directed by David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises, A History of Violence)
Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud are considered the founders of modern psychology, a commonplace practice in today’s world. But in the early 1900s, psycho-analysis was a fringe belief, and the idea that mentally-ill patients could be “cured” simply by talking with a doctor was met with widespread skepticism. A Dangerous Method is a story about a severely ill basket-case that is cured using this “dangerous” method of talk treatment, acting also as a biopic of Carl Jung.
The film, like its subjects, believes that constant psycho-babble and endless talk will cure life’s problems. Unfortunately for the film, this is the worst possible prescription.
Jung is played by Michael Fassbender, who is having a breakthrough year on the heels of his roles in X-Men: First Class and Shame (for which he won the Detroit Film Critics Society’s “Best Actor” award). He takes on the case of chronic mentally-ill Sabina Spielrein, played by Keira Knightley. I’m sorry to say that Keira Knightley is uncomfortably excessive in portraying the afflicted young woman, making the film around her hard to invest in. When Jung’s methods work to help her, the two develop a sexual relationship, and as time goes by Sabina makes so much progress that she enters the field herself as a psycho-analyst. Sigmund Freud is in the picture, as more of a master to Jung’s apprentice, but when Sabina gets close to Sigmund, tensions build as the situation grows more and more complicated.
A Dangerous Method starts off on the wrong note with Keira Knightley’s performance, and never seems to find its footing. When the story takes some unexpected sexual detours, it gets downright uncomfortable at times. Fassbender, following up the NC-17 rated Shame with this role, must be attracted to these sexually-provocative scripts. Here, the graphic nature never reaches that of Shame. A Dangerous Method is much more interested in talking about things…not so much in showing us.
As the film tries to cover a great span of time, it gives us countless montages with voice-overs from Freud and Jung as they read and write letters back and forth. Their relationship gets quite testy, but never interesting.
Viggo Mortensen is great, as is Fassbender, but their performances alone can’t save the tedious script and the unbearable pacing of the film. A Dangerous Method leaves you with a sense that not much was gained, and doesn’t make you feel like you know a whole heck of a lot about either man. A Dangerous Method is a tough pill to swallow, and not something that most people will find themselves talking about.
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