"A Dangerous Method"
Release Date: Dec. 23, 2011
Running Time: 94 minutes
How much sex does it take to satisfy Michael Fassbender? In Shame, Fassbender’s sex addict requires a shock to his system before he dares take control of his life. In director David Cronenberg’s period piece A Dangerous Method, Fassbender portrays the renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung as a repressed man whose attempts to rid himself of his sexual inhibitions threaten to ruin his marriage, reputation and career. The object of Jung’s lust is Sabrina Spielrein, a patient played by Keira Knightley whose sexual peccadilloes intrigue the psychiatrist to the point that he succumbs to his desire for her. By doing so, though, Jung runs the risk of disappointing his mentor, Sigmund Freud, played by Viggo Mortensen. The director of Crash and The Naked Lunch has never been a prude, and Cronenberg employs sex in this instance to examine the early days of psychoanalysis and the contrasting views of two of its most prominent pioneers. Freud is presented as being absolute in his view that every problem afflicting his patients can be traced back to sex, repressed or expressed. The conflict that drives A Dangerous Method lies in Jung’s belief that other factors must be taken into account and that his rejection of Freud’s assertion that the unconscious is solely a repository for repressed sexual desires. The result is a series of lively debates between Mortensen’s calm and collected Freud and Fassbender’s passionate and questioning Jung. As stagy as A Dangerous Method can be, it isn’t all talk: it features a lot of convention and kinky sex between Fassbender and Knightley. Theirs begins as the typical patient-therapist relationship, but when it turns physical, it opens the door to both to embark on some much-needed self-examination. Through both the discussion of and the depiction of sexual activity, A Dangerous Method seeks a middle ground between two extreme views of sex. It obviously rejects the puritanical stand on sex but refuses to endorse the libertine pursuit of pleasure of the flesh that can be so self-destructive. It’s easy to argue that, if chronicled truthfully in A Dangerous Method, Jung’s unethical sexual relationship with Spielrein did more harm than good to his patient. Unfortunately, much of what A Dangerous Method tries to impart is drowned out by Knightley’s loud and hammy turn. Jung treated the anorexic Spielrein for “psychotic hysteria,” but watching Knightley go into violent seizures whenever she’s forced to confront her demons doesn’t produce the desire effect of communicating her pain and suffering. She also spits out her dialogue in a shaky Eastern European accent as though every word she utters burns her mouth. Her presence induces nothing but unintentional laughter and hampers the mature conversation Cronenberg starts about the psychological implications of human sexuality.
Aired: Dec. 22, 2011
Web site: http://www.sonyclassics.com/adangerousmethod/