Director David Cronenberg has made some intelligent decisions with A Dangerous Method. First, hire some of the best actors we have today. Second, have Christopher Hampton adapt the screenplay from his own stage play (Dangerous Liaisons is one of my all time favorites). Third, address an interesting (historical) topic. Fourth, have Howard Shore score it beautifully. And lastly, keep it tight and fast paced. What you end up with is a fascinating, personal look into some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century and a great film.
I love Cronenberg’s style. Always have. I like even some of the obscure stuff–eXistenZ anyone? and still think that The Fly is a horror classic. In the later years he has become a master of the slow burn with a flash of shocking violence–Eastern Promises and A History of Violence are perfect examples of that. With this film Cronenberg changes his MO–completely. It is intimate and thought-provoking. What a pleasure to see this side of him–and makes me wonder what else is possible.
The cast is perfect. Michael Fassbender–again–is amazing. He disappears into any character and as Carl Jung he is able to capture the keen mind and the conflict that Jung must have experienced. Viggo Mortenson is a strong counter as Sigmund Freud–his presence is big and overpowering–I’m sure Freud was too. The scene stealer though is Keira Knightley. She is fantastic as Sabina Spielrein–a woman ahead of her time in many ways. Knightley is able to cover the full range of emotions needed to portray this complex character and she nails it! I hope she gets some recognition during award season.
The story centers around the differences in the doctors’ philosophies (which are well-known) but anchors it with–what turns out to be–a love story. There are many themes–father/son–teacher/student–doctor/patient–that should lead to interesting discussions. Even if you are not a student of psychology you will find the narrative intriguing.
So, if you need a break from the usual Hollywood offerings–check out a film that is a bit more…intelligent. 🙂