PG Cooper: A Dangerous Method Review

Posted: January 15, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: November 23rd, 2o11

Running time: 94 minutes

Written by: Christopher Hampton

Based on: The play “The Talking Cure” by Christopher Hampton

Directed by: David Cronenberg

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, and Vincent Cassel

While I’m not as versed in his films as I’d like to be, I’m a huge admirer of David Cronenberg and would consider myself a fan. His collaborations with Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence and Eastern Promises) have been especially good. I was intrigued when I found out he’d be directing a film involving Sigmund Freud and a protege of his. As expected, it would star Viggo Mortensen, but also rising star Michael Fassbender. Finally, the film had a riveting trailer and it became all to clear that A Dangerous Method was something to look forward to.

A Dangerous Method opens in early 20th century Europe, where psychologist Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) has recently taken on a new patient, Sabrina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). Spielrein had a confused relationship with her father that has led to her being sexually excited by physical abuse. As Jung begins to treat Spielrein, he begins to work with the father of psychology Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). The rest of the film explores the complex relationship between the three.

At first glance, A Dangerous Method looks like a more “normal” film than Cronenberg’s usual work, but this isn’t really true. Cronenberg’s films generally look at the themes of violence and sexuality. While the violence is downplayed here, the sexuality is a major component of the film. The film asks what the nature of sex is, and if sexual desires and urges should be suppressed or acted on. It studies the potential relationship between sex and death, and if sex is somehow motivation for all human actions. These themes and ideas are often associated with Sigmund Freud and feel perfectly tailored for David Cronenberg’s sensibilities. The way Cronenberg chooses to study these themes is very interesting.

The script is based on a play called “The Talking Cure”, which was itself based on the book “A Most Dangerous Method: the story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein” by John Kerr. Christopher Hampton, who wrote the play, scripted the film and a big reason for the film’s success can be credited to him. The film does a good job making the professional aspects of the story accessible for a wider audience. I knew very little about Freud and psychology before seeing the film, yet I was still fascinated with the story. The dialogue is also very good. One of the film’s highlights is just watching such intelligent characters have such intelligent conversations.

Of course it’s the acting that really shines. Michael Fassbender has had an amazing 2011. His performance here is on par with the work he did in X-Men: First Class (I also heard he was great in Shame, but I unfortunately haven’t seen it). Fassbender gives a really genuine performance and creates a pretty intriguing character. A young man with some radical ideas, but the smarts to back it up. Viggo Mortensen is also quite good as Sigmund Freud. While the marketing would suggest he’ a main character, he has more of a supporting part. Mortensen does a good job with the part and makes it feel like a character, and not just an impression for the sake of an Oscar nomination. The two men are at their best when playing off of each other. There’s something very special about watching these two brilliant men talk.

Surprsingly enough, it may be Keira Knightley who steals the show with her performance as Sabrina Spielrein. There are a number of reasons for this. The most obvious one is that Spielrein is a much more showy part than Freud or Jung. Mortensen and Fassbender both played intellectual characters who kept a lot inside. But Spielrein is somewhat insane at the beginning of the film. The way Knightley speaks and moves is both interesting and unnerving. Spielrein also goes through the most change in the film. I like the way Knightley managed to retain remenants of the mentally disturbed side of Spielrein after her rehabilitation. All three leads are great though, and worthy of awards consideration.

Cronenberg’s style may not come through like it did with A History of Violence or Eastern Promises, but he still does a very good job with the material. The film may not be visually driven, but it is shot well and the costumes and sets feel time appropriate. I also really like the way Cronenberg treated sexuality with the same blunt approach he treated violence in previous films. Not overly stylish, but without restraint. I also have to give credit to editor Ronald Sanders for helping give the film such pace. Howard Shore also deserves some recognition for his score.

Most people would probably be bored to tears by this, but A Dangerous Method is a great film. The acting is marvelous, the story interesting, and the themes explored riveting. I can’t say the film blew me away like A History of Violence or The Fly, but as someone who enjoys watching intelligent people explore intelligent subject matter, I can say I greatly enjoyed A Dangerous Method.

Rating: A

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review right here PG. The performances are good, even though Knightley may be over-acting quite a bit, and it looks great, but the film also just feels like a series of vignettes with no real feeling or drama to it. Basically what I’m trying to say was that I was bored and this story just never really got off the ground.

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