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A Dangerous Method

A Dangerous Method

By Patrick Samuel • June 30th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Sony Pictures

Original release: February 10th, 2012
Running time: 99 minutes

Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: Christopher Hampton
Composer: Howard Shore

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley, Vincent Cassel

A Dangerous Method

Where would we be today without the work of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis and Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology? Prior to their break-throughs, many of those suffering from mental disorders were simply shut away and their ailments were attributed to work of either God or the Devil.

We’ve come a long way since then. There are a number of treatments available and the mental health industry is booming as a result, for better or for worse. Yet for all the progress Freud and Jung made by simply getting people to talk about their problems, why couldn’t they agree on each other’s methods?

A Dangerous Method is based on Christopher Hampton’s 2002 stage play The Talking Cure, and the book by John Kerr, A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein. Directed by David Cronenberg, it tells the story of the relationship between Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and follows how these two brilliant minds first came together and then grew apart.

At the turn of the 20th century we meet Spielrein who’s brought to Jung as a patient. Clearly distressed and suffering deeply from some kind of trauma in her past, Jung tries a new approach with her and eventually she begins to open up. Around the same time, Jung forms a friendship with Freud by postal correspondence, after first sending him his Studies in Word Association. When the two meet, they spend 13 hours discussing all manner of things, namely Jung’s repressed sexual desires for Spielrein which he cannot act on; she is a patient and he is married.

A Dangerous Method

As Spielrein’s progress continues, she begins studying at university and hopes to become a psychoanalyst herself. Her recovery draws her closer to Jung, while he in turn becomes more and more disillusioned with Freud’s insistence that all neurosis is exclusively of sexual origin. When Freud refuses to share his dream with Jung for fear it might undermine his authority, the latter knows that an irreparable rift has formed between them. Still, with his and Spielrein’s growing affections for each other, that should bring them some comfort, but even Jung cannot fully let his desires run free, making him no different than the patients he treats. What really drives him is not just diagnosing what’s wrong with people, but finding a way to help them become who they really want to be.

Drawing on what we already know of these historical figures, A Dangerous Method offers drama with an intelligent script, as well as expert direction and a fine cast. Knightley’s role is a challenging one as the conflicted and ambitious Spielrein. She not only behaves convincingly as a sadomasochist, but also as someone who has endured years of abuse. Fassbender and Mortensen in contrast give very restrained performances, and given the characters they play, it is somewhat fitting.

Scenes are framed and shot beautifully throughout and there’s an almost clinical precision to the mise-en-scène. For all these perfections it comes a shame that I didn’t feel the conflict rising between Jung and Freud as there was more time spent A Dangerous Methoddeveloping the on-screen affair with Spielrein. As a result, the presence of Freud and the ideas which drove him take to the back burner and are never really brought to boiling point for a dramatic conclusion.

As A Dangerous Method’s end credits are about come up we read what would become of these three great minds in the years followed and I couldn’t help but feel that’s what should have been shown, instead of thrown in as an after-thought. After seeing John Houston’s Freud: The Secret Passion (1962), starring Montgomery Clift in the title role, I imagined this to have gone further in exploring some of thoughts, motivations, dreams and aspirations of remarkable figure, but the former remains a superior film on the subject of Freud.

In short, A Dangerous Method makes for an interesting character study but doesn’t go nearly as deep enough as it could have, but perhaps it’s enough if you’re more interested in the actors than who they’re playing.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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