Sunday, November 27, 2011

Movie with Abe: A Dangerous Method

A Dangerous Method
Directed by David Cronenberg
Released November 23, 2011

It’s difficult to argue that the theories and methodologies of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung are anything but extraordinarily interesting. Though their approaches were and in some cases still are controversial, they make for great material for both storytelling and thematic purposes. It stands to reason, then, that a film about Freud, Jung, and Sabina Spielrein, one of Jung’s most prominent patients, should be enthralling, especially when brought to the big screen by visionary director David Cronenberg and adapted from the novel by John Kerr by “Atonement” screenwriter Christopher Hampton. Yet something just doesn’t carry through from the idea stage to its execution.

To call “A Dangerous Method” a film about Freud is inaccurate. The main character is really Jung (Michael Fassbender), whose main fascination is his mentally disturbed patient Spielrein (Keira Knightley), who demonstrates magnificent progress as the film progresses and makes incredible bounds towards sanity and psychoanalytic education of her own. Jung’s life is presented only as it relates to two people, Spielrein and Freud, with his long-suffering wife Emma (Sarah Gadon) entering the picture only occasionally. It’s a narrow snapshot, but for the purposes of the film, it’s better that it remains focused and determined to mete out the importance and benefits of psychoanalysis.

Fassbender is a terrific actor, having demonstrated his capacity for excellence in films such as “Inglourious Basterds” and “Fish Tank.” This is a role at which he should excel, but unfortunately, it’s much like his portrayal of Magneto in “X-Men: First Class,” intriguing, committed, and ultimately unfulfilling. Knightley’s portrait of the unstable Spielrein also leaves something to be desired, as she never feels wholly real. Vincent Cassel brightens the film with his brief performance as a fellow patient, Otto Gross, presenting, as usual, an odd, entertaining, memorable character. The strongest turn in the film comes from Viggo Mortensen as Freud, playing him as an impossibly humble, reserved, brilliant scientist with a noel perspective on life.

“A Dangerous Method” suffers mostly from a lack of consistency, often darting from one interaction between Jung and Spielrein to a conversation between Jung and Freud without much regard for timeline or steadiness of thought. The story arc feels incomplete and full of holes, yet somehow the plot is told in full. Howard Shore’s foreboding score indicates the tone of a thriller, but the film never picks up its pace enough to reach that status. Somewhat similar to the early perception of psychoanalysis, it’s a decent start that is hardly proven or finished.


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