Directed by David Cronenberg
Starring Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley
Runtime 99min - Rated R
2.5 Stars (out of 4)
2.5 Stars (out of 4)
David Cronenberg is a true talent and one of the most imaginative filmmakers of all time. There are glimpses of greatness in "A Dangerous Method", but overall the film is mediocre. In the long run, I think this will be written off as a small blemish on a fantastic body of work.
Before I rant about the problem(s) with the film, I'd like to mention some of its finer qualities.
Michael Fassbender is a perfectly adequate Carl Jung. The character itself is a little flat, but that seems normal for someone who is constantly analyzing people. There are scenes that feature Jung's sadomasochistic affair with his patient and colleague Sabina Spielrein (Knightley). Fassbender does a good job at expressing arousal and shame simultaneously. He's also very good with those subtle, uncomfortable moments when he's around his wife afterwards.
As good as Fassbender is, Viggo Mortensen is even better as Sigmund Freud. He has the look and the talent to bring the character to life. His portrayal of Freud is saturated with confidence and stubborness, the kind of man who would rather slander and disown a friend than adapt his own beliefs. In my opinion, Mortensen didn't get nearly enough screen-time. A whole movie about Freud, with Viggo in the lead role, would have been much more entertaining.
Cronenberg's visual style is beautiful like always. There's a great deal of outdoor scenery in "A Dangerous Method" and the photography is composed with care. There's some particularly breathtaking shots featuring a small sailboat on a lake.
So why do I think the film is mediocre? Keira Knightley.
Keira Knightley is a talented actress, but she single-handedly spoils this movie. Her first scene in the movie looks like it belonged in a cheap "The Exorcist" rip-off. Perhaps it wouldn't have seemed like over-acting if it weren't for Fassbender's contrasting subtlety. If that weren't enough, her accent is terrible. It may be an accurate Russian accent, but it's still annoying. That's a big deal when you are attempting to play a seductive character. She reminded me a bit of "Ivana Humpalot" from "Austin Powers".
I personally don't understand why she needed a Russian accent in the first place. She's Russian of course, but Freud and Jung are Austrian and Swiss respectively. In the film they both have English accents. In fact, everyone but Knightley had an English accent. Unless you are going to give every character their native accent, then you shouldn't give any character their native accent. I just doesn't fit.
If Knightley had been using an English accent, the film would have been pretty good, still not great. No matter what accents were used, the relationship between Sabina and Jung just wasn't that interesting. The film's advertisements suggest a lot more Jung-Freud encounters than it actually delivers. Even Freud's involvement centers partly around the quasi-love story.
Vincent Cassel makes a brief appearance as Otto Gross, a psychoanalyst who is pushing Jung to cheat on his wife. Gross is a proponent of sexual freedom and the abandonment of social repression. He's basically an intellectual anarchist who uses his views to justify his voracious sexual appetite. An Otto Gross biopic directed by David Cronenberg and starring Vincent Cassel may have been an instant classic.
So without any Knightley and with a lot more Mortenson and Cassel, "A Dangerous Method" could have been very good. As it stands, it's a film that never gets boring, but is still just mediocre with a few flashes of greatness.