(Sony Pictures Classics - Release date: November 23, 2011) When I first read about A Dangerous Method, I thought it was too good to be true. David Cronenberg’s newest film is about Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung? Starring Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, and Vincent Cassel? What have I done to deserve such a movie?!
Cronenberg is known for being one of the fore founders of “body horror”, but regardless of the subject matter, his movies have always been deeply narrative and character-driven. From Shivers toVideodrome, Crash to Eastern Promises, Cronenberg’s films have a driving theme of personal transformation amidst disaster. He is known for exploring our worst fears, and uses a great deal of psychology in his horror, science-fiction, and dramatic works. With his latest film, Cronenberg tackles psychology itself.
A Dangerous Method centers on the relationship of famed psychologists Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), and the tumultuous woman caught between them (Keira Knightley). Freud, universally recognized as the father of psychoanalysis, was mentor to Jung before he had developed the theories he is known for now. The two shared a brilliant friendship but quarreled over Freud’s obsession with the libido as humanity’s greatest motivation.
The trailer for A Dangerous Method demonstrates that, though Jung grappled with Freud’s sexual theories, he too was compelled by his own desires. Sabina, Jung’s Russian patient, pulls Jung into her madness and a torrid affair. The relationships between Jung, Freud, and Sabina are further tested amidst their secret lust and fierce competition.
Cronenberg has discussed his interest in the subject matter and how taxing it was to find a good framework to tell the story of psychoanalysis. Knightley’s Sabina is based on the real-life patient of Jung, Sabina Spielrein, who suffered from dementia and hysterical fits. He noted, at the New York Film Festival: “This was my first introduction to Sabina, and she is part of what I call an ‘intellectual ménage a trois,’ and that structure was terrific — the span of it -- the relationship between Freud and Jung that went over six or seven years.”
He discovered Sabina through a 1993 non-fiction book by John Kerr, A Most Dangerous Method, which was then adapted into Christopher Hampton’s 2002 play, The Talking Cure, and now adapted for the screen (also by Hampton). Hampton himself has been nominated for his adaptation of Ian McEwan’s Atonement, so we can rest assured the screenplay is in the right hands. Keira Knightly plays the troubled Russian patient and had to research the mania extensively. Portraying a mad woman with sadistic tendencies is no easy task, but Knightley has more than proven her acting range (especially for only being 26!).
Cronenberg, Knightley, and Hampton aren’t the only gems bringing this historical drama to the screen, though. Viggo Mortensen and Cronenberg have now worked on three stellar films together: A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, and now A Dangerous Method. The duo thrives together, and has wracked up a slew of awards for their dedication and craft. Relative newcomer Michael Fassbender (also seen in the critically acclaimed thriller Shame) is fast becoming a player in the film industry’s best and brightest. With both of his new movies premiering and winning at the festivals this year, expect Fassbender to become a household name soon.
David Cronenberg has always been fascinated by the way our minds work. A Dangerous Method, though clearly more straightforward than some of his cebral, mind-bending classics, looks to bring that compelling fascination to a head by focusing on two of the most influential thinkers of our time.
For Fans Of: Eastern Promises, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, A Beautiful Mind
Why We're Excited: David Cronenberg, Keira Knightley, Psychoanalysis, Team Buzzine Hearts Sex (again)
'A Dangerous Method' premieres in the U.S. on Wednesday, November 23, 2011.