REVIEW: A Dangerous Method

5 01 2012

If I were sitting in a test screening or reviewing the script of “A Dangerous Method,” I could sum up all my reactions in a lyric from an Elvis Presley song: a little less conversation, a little more action please.  There’s plenty of interesting psychoanalytic banter between the three main characters, but from the beginning it  is evident that screenwriter Christopher Hampton is much like the long-winded priest of your childhood who is perfectly content to listen to himself talk all day.  While it can be intellectually stimulating at times (although its appeal might be limited to those with prior knowledge in the field of psychology), director David Cronenberg makes little case for why this should be a movie and not a textbook or an educational play at the Museum of Natural History.

That’s not to say that the feud between the psychoanalytic master Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and his thoughtful analytic practitioner Jung (Michael Fassbender) doesn’t have its moments of compelling drama, nor does it mean that the taut sexual tension in the doctor-patient relationship between Jung and the crazy/crazily intelligent Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) isn’t an interesting study of sexual desires and repressions.  But Cronenberg’s movie, largely due to Hampton’s script, is at war with itself, unable to decide what it is and how it wants to address its internal contradictions.  The balancing act is made especially difficult by the fact that the battle of the minds is a rather understated conflict while the battle of the sexes is garishly over the top due to Knightley’s performance.  Is it a movie of ideas or a movie about Jung’s self-examination through those ideas?

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