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Freud and Jung go toe-to-toe in A Dangerous Method

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Before psychiatry had rules: Jung (Michael Fassbender) with “patient” Spielrein (Keira Knightley) in A Dangerous Method.


Hampton's script sings as often as it's stilted, and the top-flight cast imbues these corseted and stiff-collared historical figures with red-blooded life. Indeed, what makes A Dangerous Method most compelling is its exploration of the messy contradictions of the people who set themselves the task of bringing scientific rigor to understanding the subconscious. Knightley's character enters screaming, committing to the kind of conspicuous, tic-ing "insanity" that wins Oscar nominations though not Oscars (see also: Brad Pitt in Twelve Monkeys). Yet over the course of the film, Spielrein's intelligence and passion shine through convincingly. Likewise, Fassbender, protagonist and de facto straight man to two more colorful characters, contrasts Jung's ramrod uprightness with the heedless urges welling under his shirtfront, believably navigating the shoals of fidelity and transgression, suppression and expression in each key relationship. And then there's Mortensen's Freud, a courtly eminence whose radical theoretical leap about the basis of psychological unrest in sexual problems contrasts with his utter rigidity to considering any other option; who dismisses Gross as an addict while puffing his ever-present cigar; who probes the subconscious but at first urges Spielrein to "forget and suppress" her feelings for Jung; who purports that all people are fueled by the same drives and desires but lets differences in religion and class stoke his resentment of Jung. It's the opportunity to get an unbidden glimpse inside these heads that makes all the talk worthwhile. •

★★★ 1/2 (out of 5 stars)
A Dangerous Method
Dir. David Cronenberg; writ. Christopher Hampton, John Kerr; feat. Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen. (R)

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