Sunday, 29 April 2012

Film Review: "A Dangerous Method" (2011)

The film’s tagline reads "Based on the true story of Jung, Freud and the patient who came between them." This is the premise of A Dangerous Method. This Canadian historical film directed by David Cronenberg and adapted by writer Christopher Hampton from his 2002 stage play The Talking Cure, which was based on the 1993 non-fiction book by John Kerr, A Most Dangerous Method: The story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein. The film is based on a true story, Set on the eve of World War I, A Dangerous Method describes the turbulent relationships between Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, Sigmund Freud, founder of the discipline of psychoanalysis, and Sabina Spielrein, initially a patient of Jung and later a physician and one of the first female psychoanalysts.

Hampton's earliest version of the screenplay, dating back to the 1990s, was written for Julia Roberts in the role of Sabina Spielrein, but the film was never realized. Hampton re-wrote the screenplay for the stage, before producer Jeremy Thomas acquired the rights for both the earlier script and the stage version. Christoph Waltz was initially cast as Sigmund Freud, but was replaced by Viggo Mortensen due to a scheduling conflict. Christian Bale had been in talks to play Carl Jung, but he too had to drop out because of scheduling conflicts. Filming began on 26 May and ended on 24 July 2010. The film made extensive use of the musical score of leitmotifs from Wagner's third Ring opera Siegfried, mostly in piano transcription. In fact the composer Howard Shore has said that the structure of the film is based on the structure of the Siegfried opera.

The film stars Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley and Vincent Cassel. The cast gave superb performances and provided complex psychology to the real life figures. Viggo Mortensen gave a mesmerizing performance as the great founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud. I felt as if I had seen the man himself on the screen. Along with Michael Fassbender's Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. Fassbender gave a compelling performance in every single one of his scenes, especially during the scenes when he was with Knightley. Knightley, like Fassbender, also gave a compelling performance as the psychologically disturbed female masochist. She receives the highest praise amongst the cast, due to the fact that it must have been a difficult role to play. I did not believe an actress such as her could play a role like Spielrein. But she pulled it off magnificently.

A Dangerous Method may have explosive power, striking performances and subversive wit. But it fails to live up to Cronenberg’s legacy as a world-class filmmaker and can not be counted as a film that is at the top of his startlingly creative form. To conclude, it is lifeless, stagey and lacking a palpable subversive pulse despite the ready opportunities offered by the material, this stillborn adaptation of Christopher Hampton’s play initially will attract some Cronenberg fans but will be widely met with audience indifference.

Simon says A Dangerous Method receives:

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