A Dangerous Method (2012) – direct by David Cronenberg
Based both on the play The Talking Cure by Christopher Hampton (who also wrote the screenplay for Dangerous Liaisons and the superb Atonement), and the book A Dangerous Method by John Kerr, David Cronenberg’s film centers on the famous early twentieth century psychologist Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender). The intense relationship with his mentor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) is exacerbated by a sexual interest in his neurotic patient Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley).
It’s probably worth mentioning that I am a fan of David Cronenberg’s work. His films boldly portray psychological dramas that often investigate power and its ties to sexual tension. The Talking Cure seemed like an adaptation that was tailor made for an auteur such as Cronenberg, and as a result I was expecting a grand Cronenberg psychoanalytic opera. I was disappointed. Only glimpses of his auteuristic style was evident. An early scene depicting Jung in a session psychoanalysing his wife (seen at the beginning of the trailer below) had good pace, tension, and went a significant way to fleshing out the relationship between Jung and his wife. But this is as far as any intensity or chemistry between the film’s characters went. The remainder of the film meandered along like a mediocre television drama. Not a woeful meandering drama by any means, just not the opera I was hoping for.
The rich relational chemistry of A History of Violence, the psychological intrigue of Spider, the narrative complexities of Eastern Promises, or the visual feast of Existenz; none of these elements from Cronenberg’s earlier work are evident in A Dangerous Method. Most importantly, no new ground is broken here either. Yet you would think that the narrative premise and the fertile ground for characterisation would offer a playground of opportunities for Cronenberg. At his disposal were the notable talents of screenwriter Hampton, and a cast including Fassbender, Mortensen, and the superb Vincent Cassel. Not to mention Keira Knightley baring her soul for the camera (if not a little over cooked but she must be credited for her effort). I cannot decide if the sour taste that this film leaves is the result of dashed expectations, or that this simply is an average film. What ever the case, Cronenberg disappointingly provides us with flat characters, a very mild plot, and only glimpses of his signature traits that we’ve come to expect. Perhaps he was already thinking about his next project. Which now that I mention it is the mouth watering Cosmopolis that I’m very much looking forward to. Here’s hoping he can get back on the horse.