203 of 228 people found the following review helpful
Great film, but not for everyone,
This review is from: A Dangerous Method (DVD)
Putting aside some minor historical and biographical inaccuracies, "A Dangerous Method" is a marvelous film, with a bravura performance by Keira Knightly. The focus of the film is the relationship between two of the great founders of modern psychological theory, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.
Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian Jew who developed the Psychoanalytic method as a result of his work in neurology and his experiments with Mesmerism (hypnosis). He published the first of many books in 1899 and this attracted the attention of dozens of intellectuals, including Carl Jung (1875-1961), a Swiss Psychiatrist.
Jung approached Freud in 1906 and their relationship lasted for approximately 7 years.
When they met, Freud was 50 and Jung was 31. Freud was a Jew and Jung was a Swiss Reformed Evangelical. Freud was 5'7", Jung was 6'1". Jung's experience was largely based in institutions and Freud was primarily a private physician. Freud lived comfortably but was never well off. Jung had been poor as a child but married one of the wealthiest women in Switzerland. Freud was known for being faithful to his wife and Jung was well known for his affairs, one of which is the focus of the film.
Keira Knightly plays Sabrina Spielrein (1885-1942), a former patient of Jung with whom he had an affair. Knightgly is the Natalie Portman look-alike who played the decoy Queen in Star Wars (1999). From this humble beginning she went on to earn an Oscar and a Golden Globe nomination for "Pride and Prejudice" (2005) and has been in such box office hits as the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise and "King Arthur" (2004). As the conflicted and vulnerable Russian Jewess, this is by far her best performance and one of the best performances by anyone.
Viggo Mortensen plays the cigar smoking Freud (who ultimately developed cancer of the jaw). Mortensen is best known for his "Lord of the Rings" films as well as some stunning work in films like his Oscar nominated role in "Eastern Promises" (2007) and "A History of Violence" (2005). His work in this film earned him a Golden Globe nomination. He is marvelously understated.
Michael Fassbender plays Jung. Fassbender is best known for his work in "Inglorious Bastards" (2009) and his Golden Globe nominated "Shame" (2011). He does a good job acting, but he lacks the stature of Jung who towered over (at 6'1") his contempories.
David Cronenberg directs. Cronenberg is known as the "Baron of Blood" for films such as "Scanners" (1981), "Videodrone" (1983), "The Dead Zone" (1983) and "The Fly" (1986). He worked with Mortensen on "A History of Violence" (2005) and "Eastern Promises" (2007).
The beautiful on location photography is courtesy of Peter Suschitzky who is a long time collaborator with Cronenberg and who also has to his credit films as diverse as "Valentino" (1977), "Mars Attack" and "The Man in the Iron Mask". The excellent musical score is from Howard Shore whose most familiar work is "Lord of the Rings" for which he won 2 Oscars and 3 ASCAPs. and who also gave us memorable work in "Big", "Silence of the Lambs", "Philadelphia", and "Se7en".
It's hard to make a compelling movie about such an academic topic as the differences in emphasis between Freud and Jung, and there a few good films about the history of psychology. Montgomery Clift's "Freud" (1962) and the Australian film "Between the Wars" (1974) are examples that this can be achieved, and here we have another fine example.
There are some problems with the film. The influence of World War 1 on Freud's death theory is ignored as is Jung's unflattering complicity with the Nazis. The use of Otto Gross as the only other analyst in the film makes one think that early Psychoanalysis was permeated with sexual perverts, when in fact there were many people involved who were there for the intellectual and humanitarian purposes.
Another problem with the film is that the enormity of Freud's message is not really portrayed adequately. In 1900, the idea that our behavior was controlled by unconscious impulses was revolutionary, and as much of a problem for Freud as his sexual theory, yet the two were intertwined. The film's focus on the sexual theory doesn't do justice to the complexity of Freud's theory nor to how controversial it was.
The film also underplays the importance that Jung's role as a non-Jew had to the "movement" and how much anti-semitism was at play for a theory that seemed to be rooted in intellectual Jewish culture.
Critics were divided in assessing the film. Roger Ebert called the film "absorbing" and said Mortensten's performance was "masterful". The Hollywood Reporter called it "precise, lucid and thrillingly disciplined", but Rene Rodrigues of the Miami Herald called the film "crushingly dull".
The film was released in late November and earned nearly $4 million in the first month, which placed it 165 for all films released in the previous year. It had an estimated budget in excess of $20 million.
Bottom line - fans of biographies and anyone with an interest in Psychoanalysis will find this film very entertaining and informative, but for the ordinary film goer it may be too much talking and not enough action.
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Showing 1-10 of 32 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 24, 2012 12:17:12 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 24, 2012 12:18:12 PM PST
Doug Anderson says:
Much psychoanalysis seeks to release us from our repressed fears/desires but Otto Gross represents what happens when we repress nothing. So the inclusion of Otto Gross allows us to see that though in some ways revolutionary, Freud was in many ways very conservative and envisioned his science as a socializing instrument. Psychoanalysis is a dangerous method insofar as it can so easily be misused or abused. Cronenberg is fascinated with the way Jung uses the "science" to both liberate (when that serves his needs) and misuses the science to oppress & enslave (when that serves his needs). Unfortunately the critics are abusing this film for not being this or not being that when they should be praising the fact that it does what few other films can do: make us think.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 24, 2012 12:36:48 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 24, 2012 12:37:59 PM PST
Hi. I agree that the film is very thoughtful and I enjoyed it a lot and it made me revisit some of my earlier training and the issues that were raised then.
My comment about Gross was that it skewed the film so that between Jung, Spielrein, and Gross everyone seemed to be as concerned with getting their rocks off as the intellectual and humanitarian pursuits. The sexual nature of the repressed memories was only one component of the Psychoanalytic theory and I think the unconscious motivation was far more importrant and revolutionary than the sexual component which even Freud tempered in his later years.
Of course it can be abused, but what type of treatment cannot be abused.
As to the critics, this isn't an "entertaining" film in the traditioonal sense. As you so rightly point out, it is a thoughtful and provocative film, but I think it will only appeal to a limited audience. For that audience, it is priceless. I gave it a rating of 4 because it is not going to be universally loved, but for me it was a real treat.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 30, 2012 6:05:55 PM PST
Willy D. Reviewer says:
Wow! Of all of the film reviews I have read, and considering all of the films I have seen, Dr. Gardner stands head
Posted on Feb 11, 2012 7:42:17 PM PST
A fine and insightful review about an absorbing film. I have only one complaint: I am certain that Roger Ebert commented on the masterful performance by Mortensen, not Morgenstern. A Freudian slip?
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 12, 2012 9:37:26 AM PST
Thanks for the catch. A slip - "Yes". Freudian? "I'm not sure". As the old man said himself "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar". :)
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 14, 2012 3:35:25 PM PDT
Jonathan Cardwell says:
Is there ANY movie that is universally loved? So this movie gets 4 stars, b/c of its limited appeal, and...I guess TRANSFORMERS gets 5 stars because "everyone" loves it?
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 14, 2012 5:35:06 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 14, 2012 5:37:18 PM PDT
Sorry for the misunderstanbing. The film got a 4 instead of a 5 for various reasons which I pointed out in the review (e.g., the failure to adequately address the influence of WW 1, the seeming overemphadsis on analysts with sexual problems, the failure to show Jung's enormous height and weight as a factor in his life, etc).
The comment about the lack of universal appeal was merely a comment about who might like the film. I am pretty selfish with my use of 5 as a rating on a film, and a 4 is certainly a very good grade from me. This is a great film but it isn't a classic. If Amazon gave us the option I would probably give it a 9, but stuck with a 4 or 5, it's a 4.
Posted on Mar 24, 2012 2:47:19 PM PDT
S. D. Haas says:
Dr. Garner you are "hit". Including myself ,I see everyone confirms your fair assessment of this wonderful movie" A Dangerous Method". I would think it would be difficult to delve into, " Freud's Death Instinct' for a movie production.
I wonder what is your assessment of the book, if you had read it. I usually have a many books on my so-call 'plate' so I'm curious about your opinion...
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 24, 2012 4:04:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 24, 2012 4:04:49 PM PDT
Hi. I haven't read the book. In my younger days I was steeped in Freud and the Freudians and later spent considerable time pursuing Jung's work. I confess to finding Freud's formulations more useful.
The beauty of Freud's death instinct, especially after the War, is that their explanatory value is even greater than the sex or libido theory. But you are right in that putting them to cinematic use would be difficult. In the film, Dr. Spielrein hints at this but it is merely mentioned.
Posted on Mar 25, 2012 4:35:35 PM PDT
Glad to see you reviewed this movie Dr. Gardner. You do very good with your reviews.
I've read quite a lot of Freud through the years, some Jung, Adler and a lot of Otto Rank. My understanding is that Freud came up with his "death instinct" after his falling out with Jung, Adler and Rank over the importance of his theories of sexuality and the importance of religion. Freud was an atheist and believed that religion was nothing more than superstition and the occult. He believed in nothing beyond man. The others felt different about this. Rank also differed with Freud on the issue of neurosis. Freud's emphasis was fear brought on by the castration complex. Rank felt that The main fear of man was the fear of life itself and the fear of death. I didn't mean to ramble....All of these men were giants of intellect and I love to read them.
Can't wait to see this movie. Best to you.