A Dangerous Method
Solid acting, directing and story makes this movie interesting from historical point of view, but overall dull pace hinders the entertainment.
Can’t really give you the source, unfortunately I don’t remember where I heard this quote, but it said that if you want to be a doctor you need to be stabbed or shot. You know, so that you are familiar with the pain your patients endure. Same might be applied to psychoanalysts – if you want to cure people from madness you need to know personally what madness is.
In the beginning of the century Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) – future founder of analytical psychology – was just starting doctor at the Burghölzli psychiatric hospital. His new patient is Sabina Spielrein (Kiera Knightley), who has serious mental problems. She has been abused by her father since childhood, has masochistic tendencies and is emotionally unstable. Jung thinks he can help her by not observing regular psychiatric treatments, but with use of the new technique developed by Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). Surprisingly this works, his new ways of treatment get him close to Freud, whom he starts to consider as his mentor. But in the meantime Carl and Sabina develop deep connection that sooner turns into a crazy affair.
The topic itself is controversial, as it seems there’s no certain indication of the events unfolding in the way it has been portrayed in the film. Yet, film doesn’t try to be documental or even biopical. Its just shows some interesting ways the story might have been developed between two greatest minds of human psychology, Jung and Freud.
2011 was indeed the year of Michael Fassbender. And although he didn’t get much award recognition, this is definitely just the beginning for the very talented actor. His Jung tries to be correct. He tries to be moral. Faithful. Ethical. Right. Open-minded. And yet, even his soul is not sinless. Even he has deep thoughts buried deep down his unconsciousness that he tries to suppress. And Fassbender delivers all that struggle passing inside Carl Jung.
Kiera Knightley plays very believable mental patient. Her transformation due to the treatment is gradual and you can really see the madness in her eyes. I believe its not that difficult for a regular actor to play a crazy person. Just jump around, speak fast, yank your head from side to side, and that’s basically it. But to have that crazy stare, that look – its something only few can achieve. She comes to it very close. Respect.
I think Viggo Mortensen passed his actor “training” by the time of “Eastern Promises” (coincidentally, by the same director). Since then I can’t really find any flows in his acting. He is just good. I also would like to mention episodic, but important to the storyline role of Vincent Cassel. He continues to appear in this kind of episodic/supporting roles, instead of the main ones, I assume only to stir everything, leave that impression of “wow! he is in this movie too?” and impact our perception of the supporting cast even more.
Directing style David Cronenberg chose actually surprised me a bit. Big amount of close-ups, almost all the shots downward facing camera angles, fast editing, small apertures. This kind of techniques doesn’t usually accompany this kind of movie. Usually you would see long edits, cameras filming from far at a wider angles. But what otherwise would make the movie more cinematical, artistic, brings down to the level where the only factor affecting film is the acting. And because topic is somehow “real-life”, film suffers some action and somewhat bigger resolution.
Nevertheless, if you are familiar with the works of Freud and Jung or interested in psychology anyhow, I think you would really enjoy and love the movie. For the rest of us, it will just be a good film.