Movie Review: “A Dangerous Method”
- Mar. 7, 2012
- 0 Comments
David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method” is a scintillating psycho-sexual safari masquerading as another drab period piece, trading powdered wigs and petticoats for riding crops, tightly laced corsets and feral erotica.
From sci-fi classics like “Videodrome” and “The Fly” to his masterpiece “A History of Violence,” the Canadian auteur has long been obsessed with the concept of bodily deformation or decay as a metaphor for the moral corrosion of the soul. Now he’s finally tackling one of the driving influences behind his “body horror” fixation: the story of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud’s tumultuous friendship and the eventual schism that precipitated the birth of modern psychology.
The story centers on Jung (Michael Fassbender) and his ill-advised decision to take one of his mental patients as a mistress. The girl in question is the alluring Sabrina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), the brilliant but unhinged masochist who would go on to become one of the Soviet Union’s leading psychoanalysts.
Haunted by his unethical desires, Jung retreats to Vienna and quickly ingratiates himself to Freud (Viggo Mortensen), whose theories of the unconscious mind are already being met with admiration and infamy. Their talks together are fascinating, ranging from intellectual jousting to the deepest of existential musings. Then Sabrina arrives in Vienna like a heat wave, and all sense of propriety between the two men quickly evaporates.
Knightley is a physical marvel, contorting her body into a writhing, rickety tangle of limbs that simultaneously conveys helpless terror and insatiable lust. Fassbender is more restrained here than usual, turning in a performance that essentially acts as a sounding board for Knightley and Mortensen. Mortensen is a mercurial, cigar chomping delight as Freud, a man whose genius is dwarfed only by his own regard for it. Special mention must also be made of the brilliant French actor Vincent Cassel, whose pansexual anarchist Otto Gross steals every scene he slithers into.
Despite its many strengths, “A Dangerous Method” has some difficulty finding the balance between its three main characters. We spend an inordinate amount of time in the cold, loveless home of Jung and his vengefully pregnant wife. Mortensen, arguably the film’s acting highlight, only appears sporadically, and too much of the third act is spent watching characters write, send and read various letters. But these are minor gripes. Like Knightley’s incredible shrinking corset, Cronenberg’s latest deserves to be seen before it’s gone.