Intriguing and provocative, the historical film “A Dangerous Method” explores the dynamic relationship between Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Sabina Spielrein, as well as the emergence of psychotherapy. The film is directed by David Gronenberg and written by Christopher Hampton, who adapted it from a play he had written.
Michael Fassbender plays the part of Carl Jung, and Viggo Mortensen plays his mentor, Sigmund Freud. Their relationship and approach to their field is forever changed when Jung takes in hysterical Sabina Spielrein, played by Kiera Knightley, as his patient.
Inspired by Freud’s advancements, Jung uses his methods on Spielrein. He treats her using the ‘talking cure’ and discovers Spielrein’s deep rooted issues and guilt that cause her anxieties and frequent spasms. As their sessions help Spielrein overcome her obstacles, Jung and Spielrein develop a relationship driven by both intellectual and sexual attraction that eventually culminates into an affair. Their relationship quickly becomes the forefront of the movie, and greatly effects the way Jung and Freud view one another, as well as their approach to psychotherapy. Unfortunately, because the movie became primarily about the affair between Spielrein and Jung, the relationship between Freud and Jung was not explored as much as one would expect. Spielrein eventually becomes a pioneer in the field of psychology herself, and the conversations that emerge between the three characters are intriguing and compelling, staying with the audience long after the movie has ended.
The director’s approach to the scenes was unique in the sense that the scenes were very brief, only lasting for a few minutes. The movie took place over years without giving any explanation to how much time passed between the scenes, giving it a disjointed feeling. Viewers had to infer how much had changed from one scene to the next. However, the decision to split the scenes into brief moments helped maintain the movie’s momentum, for each scene was composed of only the most essential information and dialogue. It was also successful in creating a character arc. Because the brief moments spanned across years, viewers were able to see how much each character changed individually and in relation to one another.
The film had an excellent cast; both Fassbender and Mortensen delivered great performances. Fassbender especially had a powerful presence on screen, and he played a contemplative man struggling with his id and super ego exceptionally well. Kiera Knightley on the other hand embodied her character to the extreme—her attempt to portray a hysterical patient was distracting and unsettling. Her acting was overdone, making it clear that she was an actor playing a role. She was excessively erratic, twitching in unnatural ways, contorting her face to the point that it was disturbing and took away from the scenes. Even the accent Knightley had felt false and was difficult to understand.
The most satisfying part of the film is the script; the movie is full of amazing lines and revealing dialogue. On the surface, the movie tells the tale of three important psychologists that revolutionized the field of psychology, and of their intertwining relationships. But what is most compelling is the thought provoking script that reveals as much about human nature as it does about the characters’ journeys. Audiences are left with much to contemplate on: the dark aspects of human nature, creativity, the complications of relationships, the clash of destructive forces. Though the dramatic and romantic aspect of the movie is done well, the themes and conversations presented are what leaves a lasting impression.