When it comes to sex and violence, Canadian maestro David Cronenberg embraces both as he made a name for himself with early horror works like Videodrome and his masterful remake of The Fly, as well as his controversial car-crashing drama Crash. Having collaborated with Viggo “Aragorn” Mortensen on A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, their third and latest outing is one of mind games.
Set on the eve of World War I, the mentally-damaged Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) becomes a patient and later a lover for the founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender). As the scandalous affair progresses, this becomes a fascination for Sigmund Freud (Mortensen), the founder of the discipline of psychoanalysis who develops a turbulent relationship with Jung.
With Dangerous Liaisons writer Christopher Hampton adapting his own stage play The Talking Cure, A Dangerous Method certainly echoes the themes previously explored in David Cronenberg’s back catalogue, such as sexuality being a pleasurable and destructive experience, whilst the journey of Sabina is a tale of transformation. Whilst it does have the credentials to be a Cronenberg piece, what it lacks is that fell of something crawling under your skin, which is what the director is best at.
In terms of its source material, the film has a very theatrical nature as it is mostly done through somewhat scientific conversations about psychoanalysis, sexual urges and the idea of fantastical methods such as telepathy. This may sound pretentious and the theories that are discussed will baffle some, actors like Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender have such a captivating presence that it’s hard to ignore, particularly the former who has a black sense of humour as the mischievous Freud.
Since premiering in numerous festivals, a lot of the buzz towards the film are the scenes in which Keira Knightley is spanked by her Irish-Germanic co-star. If this is your reason to see the film, then you are wasting your time as she is perhaps giving her finest performance. From the very first frame, we see the Pirates star screaming and laughing her head off, to the point her jaw is about to dislocate. With a convincing Russian accent, Knightley brilliantly captures the slow change from a fractured-minded patient to a promisingly-cured woman.
With great performances from the three leads and nice cinematography by Peter Suschitzky, A Dangerous Method doesn’t quite have the creepyness of Cronemberg’s superior works, whilst Christopher Hampton’s script is a bit too theatrical.
DIRECTOR: DAVID CRONENBERG
SCREENWRITER: CHRISTOPHER HAMPTON
STARRING: VIGGO MORTENSEN, MICHAEL FASSBENDER, KEIRA KNIGHTLEY, VINCENT CASSEL, SARAK GADON
COUNTRIES: UK, GERMANY, CANADA, SWITZERLAND
RUNTIME: 99 MINS APPROX