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-