Film review: A Dangerous Method

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Jen Perry is presently completing her honours year in German at the University of Western Australia, and was on the student-editing committee for Trove; a multi media creative arts journal from 2010 to 2011.

The opinions expressed in Trove are those of individual contributors and not those of the editoral committee or the steering committee (as editorial advisers) or UWA.

Still from the film 'A Dangerous Method'

Reviewed by Jen Perry

Edited by Rachael Hains-Wesson

Film: A Dangerous Method
Director: David Cronenberg
Running time: 99 minutes
Year of release: 2011
Language: English

If I learnt anything from David Cronenberg’s film A Dangerous Method, it is to “never repress anything.” This statement comes courtesy of psychoanalyst Otto Gross, whose brief involvement in the film, as Carl Jung’s patient, is more thrilling than the majority of the narrative in this particular adaptation. The film is based on Christopher Hampton’s play The Talking Cure which was first adapted from John Kerr’s non-fiction novel A Most Dangerous Method. The film portrays the beginning and end of what proves to be a very strained relationship that occurs between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, chiefly as a result of Jung’s relationship and association with Sabina Spielrein who is a patient and a budding psychoanalyst.

 The film is mainly set in Jung’s offices in Switzerland and Freud’s humble apartment in Austria. The cinematography and scenery are simply breathtaking, and I could easily imagine the real Freud sitting in his cramped Viennese office, smoking profusely and talking with Jung for long hours.

Unfortunately, much of my admiration for the film ended here. For one, I felt that the majority of the acting was unconvincing and stiff. However, this could have been due to faults in the script, which relied too heavily on the characters’ descriptions of their thoughts and feelings rather than showing how they felt.

A notable exception was Vincent Cassel’s portrayal of Gross. His dynamic energy literally leapt off from the screen and made me wish he’d figured more prominently throughout. Second, Keira Knightley played Spielrein and delivered a performance which was all too similar to other period characters she has attempted in the past, overly effusive yet mildly indignant.

Finally, Michael Fassbender’s characterisation of Jung was wholly unexciting and Viggo Mortensen’s rendition of Freud adhered to the typical stereotype of a portly, cigar smoking, sex obsessed man.

Perhaps, if A Dangerous Method had thoroughly explored the intricacies of Spielrein’s relationship with both men, it might have created a much more interesting and intriguing film. As it stands, this film is worth viewing if you’re studying psychology or if you're unduly interested in psychoanalysis as a subject matter. For others who are hoping for an entertaining night out at the cinema, give it a miss or wait until the DVD comes out.

A Dangerous Method begins at Luna Leederville and Luna SX Fremantle from 29 March 2012.