Friday, November 11, 2011

A Dangerous Method

By s. Friday, November 11, 2011 , , , , , ,
56/100 (2011, 99 min)
Plot: A look at how the intense relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gives birth to psychoanalysis.
Director: David Cronenberg
Writers: Christopher Hampton (screenplay), John Kerr (book)
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley and Viggo Mortensen

Dangerous method? Empty outcome.

I was waiting so eagerly for "A Dangerous Method". But then I read this little piece of trivia which said that David Cronenberg told Keira Knightley that if she won't want to do any nudity, there will be none in the movie. Why would such a great director compromise his vision because of an actress? If it was a very talented actress, I could maybe understood his actions. But Keira Knightley, even if it was a great movie, would managed to ruin it with one of the worst performances I've seen in years.

I do not know what possessed Cronenberg to cast her. Is he on some charity mission where he takes actors from blockbusters and casts them in ambitious project? I see in his next movie he has Robert Pattinson in a lead role. Knightley is fine in romantic productions like "Never let me go", "Pride and Prejudice" and "Atonement", but despite her Academy Award nomination she really has not much of a talent. Her performance as Sabina Spielrein, Jung's disturbed patient is simply awful. Knightley's way of portraying her character involves trying to speak with bad Russian accent, uncontrollable yelling, hysterical crying and presenting what can only be described as annoying, fake mannerisms. I couldn't believe my eyes as I was watching her. You would think that as Sabina gets better, as the movie progresses,  Knightley would be less annoying, but it's not the case. Everything about her - her voice, her bland expressions, her fidgeting is truly embarrassing to witness. I thought that Knightley was a decent actress until I saw this movie. For her own sake and especially for the sake of the movie goers, I truly hope she will stick to less ambitious material.
Another thing that fails miserably is the script and you really can't have a good movie without a decent script. Not only is the movie horribly boring - Cronenberg's previous film about mental illness "Spider" wasn't very engaging either, but at least it was a very clever, consistent story. Here everything is all over the place - we see Jung and his family, his interactions and lengthy conversations with Freud, his troubled relationship with Sabina, his talks with Otto Gross, who is really unnecessary in this movie - he appears as if from nowhere and then disappears. He is supposed to be a catalyst for Jung to begin his affair with Sabina, but things could have progressed just as well without his character in the movie. In the effect, the film which is only 90 minutes long, not only could have been much shorter, but it also manages to be extremely dull.

Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen are both wonderful actors, but they can both only do so much with the material given to them. Mortensen has created two wonderful performances in his two previous collaborations with Cronenberg in "A History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises". Here he is an eccentric Freud, but apart from bringing in a little humour to the movie, he doesn't have opportunity to do more than that. Fassbender is trying his best with terribly written character of Jung, but even he can't inject life in this picture. Cassel is always good, but he was type casted as sexual maniac again. Plus he is barely even in the movie.
Fassbender and Knightley have zero chemistry together - they relationship which was supposed to be both sexual and intellectual is neither of those things. Their sex scenes are completely devoid of eroticism - if that was supposed to be Cronenberg's attempt at showing sexuality from the analytic point of view, it failed as well - I had absolutely no interest in any of those characters or their studies and theories, because the movie has no core - it moves back and forth, never giving us enough to care about any of those people we are watching on screen.

What did work were the costumes and the music - Howard Shore did a good job with the score for the film, which prevents it from being completely forgettable. But still, it's nowhere near his work for "ExistenZ" which remains my favorite movie by Cronenberg. The editing is almost as disjointed as the script, but again when the plot is that chaotic, what can you do?

"A Dangerous Method" could have been thought-provoking, interesting movie, but the script prevented it from happening. And then casting of Knightley really made things worse. You won't learn much about Freud or Jung from this movie, you will not have any performances to marvel at. It's a lifeless, uninspired creation instead of being a fascinating, dangerous look inside great and disturbed minds.


  1. I was looking forward to this movie but now when you wrote that Keira ruined it with her performance I'm a bit worried...

  2. I think the best thing to do is to catch it on DVD, it's really not worth price of the ticket ;(

  3. I agree with your review completely. The movie was BORING. He tried to do too much and should have just concentrated on the Jung/Freud story.