“A Dangerous Method” starring Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender opens tomorrow in NY & LA

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Knightley, Fassbender
Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein, Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung. Photo by Liam Daniel, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

A Dangerous Method is a new film by David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises, A History of Violence, Crash) starring  Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender and Vincent Cassel. The screenplay was written by Academy Award-winning writer Christopher Hampton (Atonement, Dangerous Liaisons). With all of those big names and the intriguing subject matter I expected more.

The central characters are Carl Jung (Fassbender), Sigmund Freud (Mortensen) and an 18-year-old extremely disturbed woman named Sabina Spielrein (Knightley). The film begins with strength. Spielrein is thrashing about as only the unbalanced would and Jung, who takes her on as a patient, decides to try Freud’s new experimental treatment for the first time: Talk Therapy. The story is based on true events, gathered from letters and Speilrein’s diaries. It spans the decade of connection between these three founders of psychoanalysis—a term coined by Freud.

The relationship between Jung and his patient Spielrein becomes inappropriately steamy. Knightley gives an Oscar-worthy performance and for that reason alone it is worth seeing. A lesser actress would’ve looked comical as the face twitching, body writhing, troubled young woman who’d been abused by her father. Spielrein confused pain with sexual arousal—which meant a couple of uncomfortable spots in the film that I almost looked away from.

The film dragged in parts. That’s what comes of too much talking. I give it 2.5 stars based on its other riveting moments, and for the cinematography which is as colorfully composed as Manet paintings.

The close friendship, and then the falling out, between Jung and Freud made for high drama. The forbidden love and the shame of not being able to fight temptation made Jung intensely interesting. I would’ve liked to know more about him like how he became the man he was. A childhood flashback or two would’ve been helpful.

I will say that for anyone who is particularly interested in the subject matter of psychoanalysis I’d throw in an additional half star. If I hadn’t seen Cronenberg’s other films, full of action and originality I might not have held the bar as high walking in. There were parts of the film where he may have gotten bored himself—it seemed that way.

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud Photo by Liam Daniel, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Mortensen proves his acting chops once again. He is virtually unrecognizable as the subtly-played Freud. Cassel has a small part but he captivates in the time he’s on screen. He seemed to enjoy the heck out of playing a self-indulgent, hedonistic over-sexed and morally bankrupt high-on-cocaine guy.

My regard for all of the talent in this film remains intact and I will surely see all of their future works but this flick sadly fell short of it’s potential.

Rated R. 99 minutes. View Trailer

1 thought on ““A Dangerous Method” starring Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender opens tomorrow in NY & LA”

  1. Very interesting review — I agree with most of your points, especially Keira Knightley’s amazing acting. I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t get nominated for an Oscar. I learned much about the two great men that I had never known before and that was fascinating. I would have liked to have seen a little more attention paid to Jung’s theories about archetypes and the like. Maybe that will be another movie!

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