FILM: A Dangerous Method Review (*1/2)

Posted: November 24, 2011 in Film, Reviews
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Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung are two of the most engaging minds in history, but watching two actors (though talented) expound on Freudian and Jungian theories on the big screen does not make a movie. It makes a sad excuse for a term paper. Wikipedia curiously describes A Dangerous Method as a “historical film”, not a historical thriller or historical drama, simply a historical film. And that’s what it is — two guys playing dress-up to debating over psychological theories.

A Dangerous Method is I admit, beautifully shot, and though underused, Viggo Mortensen in particular plays the soft-spoken Freud with wonderful ease, control, and a hint of giddy sarcasm. Vincent Cassel also gives the film’s best 15 minutes when his Otto Gross pays a visit to Jung. But outside of these elements, the film is a remarkable disappointment that starts with director David Cronenberg.

Remember — this is the same guy who directed Crash (the good one), The Fly, and A History of Violence. Cronenberg has proven to be a master of suspense, kink, and body horror. Yet, he can’t muster enough to make a scene Fassbender spanking a topless Kiera Knightley interesting. In fact, it’s a flat out bore.

I mean, it is…interesting. But not interesting in the “Wow I’m not bored out of my mind way.” It’s interesting in the History Channel sort of way — it’s given me a  desire to maybe read a few pages on Freud and Jung’s thoughts at my next trip to Barnes and Noble. But in the moment, I was not caught up with the tension between two great thinkers and the crazed woman that comes between them.

Which brings me to what is sure to be the most controversial performance of the year — Kiera Knightley, who plays Jung’s brilliant (and insane) nymphomaniac patient Sabina Spielrein. Allow me first to give credit to where credit is due. Knightley really goes all out with this portrayal — a jaw-jutting, bulging-eyed, heavy-accented, dirty-talking impression. But never in her performance did I believe I was watching Sabina or a crazed patient; I was watching Kiera Knightley acting crazy. Sublety isn’t a trait Knightley chooses to follow and I assume, Cronenberg advises against it. Because the result is one of the most blatantly obvious attempts at overacting since my role as Francis Phelan in a high school play.

I’ll concede that my expectations played into my final judgment of A Dangerous Method. But when you put together one of the greatest directors in Cronenberg in what should be his wheelhouse, expectations should met if not exceeded. And in this case, it didn’t even meet an expectation to keep me awake.

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. The performances are good, even though Knightley may be over-acting quite a bit, and it looks great, but the film also just feels like a series of vignettes with no real feeling or drama to it. Basically what I’m trying to say was that I was bored and this story just never really got off the ground. Check out my review when you get the chance.

  2. dbmoviesblog says:

    I cannot agree more. You are absolutely spot on. For me, the film did not work on so many levels I so wanted it to work: psychologically, romantically, emotionally, etc. As you rightly point out, it only barely ticks the ‘history’ box. I was so in love with the trailer to this film (still am), it’s just a shame the film did not live up to its promise.

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