Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Dangerous Method

Creating a movie based on the tumultuous relationship between the two most famous shrinks of all time, starring two of the best contemporary actors around, helmed by a director of great, unique vision should’ve been gold. Sadly, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method is leftover coal from a bully's stocking. It’s a series of barely linked, misguided scenes that run on about as long as the first sentence of this review.

I know where things go wrong in the film, but I’d be very interested to know if this final result is the product Cronenberg was looking for, as it is his weakest film since, hell… M. Butterfly?  A shame, given the talent that was available to him.

A Dangerous Method tells the story of how Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), pioneered a psychological practice initially implemented by his mentor, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). Jung thought it a noble idea to sit a patient down, and let him or her simply talk. Hopefully, Freud envisioned, their talking would be a sort of catharsis, which was a success, given that that is the basic principle of psychoanalysis as it is today.

But the film is also about Jung’s affair with his once horribly disturbed, Russian-Jew patient, Sabina (Keira Knightley), and how he helped cure her, in part, by living out sexual fantasies she had of her father.

But the film is also about Freud and Jung’s initial father/son kinship, and how it grew into a spiteful mess.  But the film is also about Jung’s bland relationship with his tired wife, Emma. Oh, and Vincent Cassel shows up for a handful of scenes as a sex-crazed psychologist (I think), who helps convince Jung that it’s okay to bone one of his patients.

So, basically, A Dangerous Method is about a lot of things, yet it executes none of them well. Equal time is given to each subplot, when the film would be far better off just sticking with the most riveting segments (those involving Jung and Sabina, and Jung and Freud). Had Cronenberg and Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher Hampton slimmed their scale, we could be dealing with a far better film.

Fassbender, Mortensen, and Knightley are all great, no question, but they’re given next to nothing to work with. Endless amounts of intangible dialogue that result to a horribly anticlimactic third act. Even the few love scenes between Fassbender and Knightley are unerotic and stiff, and not in a good way.

After taking five years off following his great Eastern Promises and his masterful A History of Violence, I had high hopes for Cronenberg’s new venture. Maybe his next flick, Cosmospolis, starring Robert Pattinson, will be a return to form. Or, given the star, maybe not. C-


  1. Great review. I'm sad that it's not dynamite, considering the talent. I still want to see it, though. Can't get enough Fassbender.

    "unerotic and stiff, and not in a good way." I LOL-ed.

  2. @Robert Ha you like that? Well hey, after SHAME, one may expect a little Fassbender stiffness. No dice.

  3. I thought the movie was completely bland and unengaging but it had one amazing thing - Keira Knightley performance is so bad I almost hope she would be banished from movies for years as a penalty of how awful she was. It was embarassing to watch. What a waste of good material, by the way.

    To answer the question on my blog - yes, I code everything myself. First I create jpg/png images with the font of choice and then I make them into link - much like "proud to be lamb" picture on your long which is a link. Then I paste the code into html of the blog, in one of the widgets. It takes some time to master the skill, but once you suceed it's very easy :)

  4. @Sati. Nice! I love that Knightley dig. Obviously I didn't think she was as bad as you did, but let me put it this way, I'm honestly not quite sure if it was awful or great. Time will tell.

    That coding stuff is way beyond my skill level. I have a very basic, elementary understanding of it, but I love what you do with that labels gadget. I can create a graphic in Photoshop or Illustrator very easily, but I've been trying to find some help online with the coding for a while. Oh well!

  5. Great review, not very encouraging, but I still want to see it! I agree with Robert, can't get enough of Fassbender :) plus, on the 13th of January Shame comes to the UK cinemas

  6. @Aziza Oh for sure, don't let my distaste of the film dissuade you from seeing it. I know how much you like Fassbender, so I think you'll at least get some enjoyment out of this. You will get MUCH enjoyment, however, out of Shame.

  7. @Alex: :)) I know I know, but that is not the only reason I am seeing it! I really like Steve McQuuen's style of directing and Carey Mulligan is always great PLUS it is set in my dream city, New York! So, more then Fassbender :P

  8. @Aziza Given all that, believe you me, I think you're gonna love it.