Dangerous Method, A (2011)

Director:  David Cronenberg
Cast:  Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley, & Vincent Cassel. 
Plot:  A look at how the intense relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gives birth to psychoanalysis.

Genre:  Biography / Drama 
Awards:  Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice).  Nom. for 1 Golden Globe - Best Supporting Actor. 
Runtime:  99min
Rating:  M18 for sexual content and brief language.

It is fair to say that Canadian director David Cronenberg has matured over the years as a filmmaker.  The jury is still out as to whether his newfound direction in filmmaking belies his commitment to his unique craft and vision.  Gone are the heady days of "body-horror" Cronenberg, a fascinating filmmaker whose bizarre and controversial films are stuffs of legend. 

His latest effort, A Dangerous Method, continues his vein of doing dramatic projects with compelling themes that started with the crime-thriller A History of Violence (2005), and continuing with the crime-drama Eastern Promises (2007).

Now he explores a subject that is inherently less violent: psychoanalysis.  A Dangerous Method is a brief chronicle of the key interactions between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung that gave birth to the controversial science of psychoanalysis.  

Viggo Mortensen plays Freud, while the ubiquitous Michael Fassbender plays Jung. Rounding up the leading cast is Keira Knightley, who plays Sabrina Spielrein, a patient of Jung, who aspires to be a doctor while not-so-quietly seducing her mentor.  While Mortensen and Fassbender show that they can act with subtlety, Knightley's performance is more eye-catching, and for some, for the wrong reasons.

There are quarters who feel that Knightley is the sole blip in this well-made picture, with a performance that is exaggeratingly bad.  But others, like myself, have no qualms about it.  I think it is a performance that is deserving of some measure of appreciation, despite its attention-seeking nature. 

Cronenberg also pays remarkable attention to the film's period setting, and his slow, tracking shots allow viewers to immerse themselves into the beauty of its art direction and set decoration.  A Dangerous Method may seem slightly vacuous at certain parts, but its dialogue-driven screenplay provides ample room for an intellectually stimulating experience.

Contrary to popular belief, A Dangerous Method is not so much about Freud, but about his frenemy Jung.  Psychoanalysis is the glue that ties both of them together in a struggle to advance a grey area of medical science amid strong societal and academic opposition. 

While considerably less viscerally violent than the usual Cronenberg picture, A Dangerous Method does tap into the uncharted territory that is intellectual violence - the bloody mental battles that are waged for or against theories, concepts, and propositions as they hinder or seek for truth.  It is a film that will appease the arthouse crowd, but ignore the mainstream folks who are likely to see it as a borefest.

Verdict: While at times vacuous, this latest Cronenberg picture is still intellectually stimulating, and most certainly one for the arthouse crowd.


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