A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg, 2011)

February 11, 2012

A Dangerous Method sees something of a diversion from David Cronenberg’s typical brand of filmmaking, his common theme of corruption of the body and mind moving aside for an emphasis on dissection of the latter. A look at the birth of psychoanalysis in the early 1900s and the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, the only semblance of the director’s body horror motif comes through Keira Knightley’s facial contortions as Sabina Spielrein, an initial sufferer of what was then known as hysteria. The features of the actress’ physical acting in her early scenes allow for some visual resemblance to the type of facial manipulation in other Cronenberg films, just without the assistance of prosthetic effects enhancement.

A film dominated by conversation and the exchanging of ideas, the strongest moments are usually related to scenes of Michael Fassbender’s Jung and Viggo Mortensen’s Freud meeting face-to-face; their relationship becomes increasingly estranged and hostile, and harbours A Dangerous Method’s few flirtations with a comedic streak. Further highlights also arise from some stunning visual compositions in exterior scenes, and some intriguingly uncomfortable, off-centre framing during its one-on-one scenes of confrontation and discussion.


Awkwardly arranged on a narrative level, the abrupt structural editing choices not only cause unflattering comparisons to the source material’s stage roots but also a lack of any sort of graceful flow to events. Christopher Hampton’s screenplay is a constant barrage of bare details, each idea presented never being provided a substantial exploration beyond basic, surface level description. It becomes clear that concerns are not so much with the development of the ideas of these people, but rather how they reflect their own behaviour as individuals; nonetheless, the effect of a lack of fleshing out and conviction is still prominent with this exploration.

So lacking in density despite its constant dissecting discussions, A Dangerous Method’s staid approach too often feels at odds with the story’s concerns with avoiding repression and restraint. Perhaps the prospect of a longer running time could have dispelled this issue, as the rushed aura certainly provokes the feeling of an unfortunately neutered work.


One comment

  1. Excellent review, I completely agree on all marks.

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