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A Dangerous Method - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
A Dangerous Method
Directing: A-
Acting: A-
Writing: A
Cinematography: A-
Editing: A-

Michael Fassbender is having one hell of a year. He was in Jane Eyre, then in X-Men: First Class; now he's in both Shame and A Dangerous Method, both playing in theatres at the same time -- and both with very overt sexual themes. These four movies vary in quality. A Dangerous Method is easily the best.

Here he acts opposite both the underrated Kiera Knightley and the all but unrecognizable Viggo Mortensen. Fassbender plays Carl Jung; Mortensen his friend and mentor Sigmund Freud. Knightley is the patient who is the catalyst for both the beginning of friendship between these two men as and the end of it. Oddly, for two Europeans, both Jung and Freud here speak with American accents -- Jung quite notably so; Freud less so because of the pseudo-lazy drawl Mortensen gives him. Knightley, on the other hand, speaks with a mostly convincing Russian accent. Somehow, none of this is ever really distracting.

This is an unusually intellectually stimulating movie, filled with dialogue to mull over. Christopher Hampton's screenplay pulsates with a quietly seductive discovery of ideas. They are all ideas now a century old, true, but director David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises) makes you feel as though you're stepping through the doors opened by these titans of psychology right along with them. Every single line carries weight; not a word is wasted. And it's all delivered with a deliberate pace that keeps the story steadily moving but at the same time allows the things being said to sink in.

This is ostensibly about how the bond between Jung and Freud was broken. But at a much deeper level, it's about how that bond, and the end of their relationship, was informed and affected by their divergent scientific ideas. As presented here, it has much to do with broken trust: Jung is ashamed of his behavior, and lies about it.

It should come as no surprise in a movie dealing directly with Freud that much of the focus is on sex. There are a few rather fetishistic sex scenes, rather unusual for a period piece, but even they serve as a means of regarding sex objectively. There is much food for thought here, regarding divergent theories about the extent to which sexual urges inform all forms of neuroses. Jung in particular finds himself struggling with questions of when self-repression is appropriate and to what extent -- hence, his taking of Sabina (Knightley) as a mistress, which in turn renders him racked with guilt. Sabina, on the other hand, has been so successfully treated that she is getting her own medical education and ultimately subscribes to the notion of rejecting sexual repression.

This is quite a departure for Knightley, in a part rather more showy than those of Fassbender or Mortensen. Sabina arrives at Jung's clinic completely unhinged. There are moments when it seems maybe the performance is maybe too much. What I can say of Knightley here is that she's certainly fearless. This is not a flattering part to play, but Knightley gives it her all.

Fassbender and Mortensen are more subdued, which is to be expected of the professionals they play, and allows for greater focus on their many discussions. It's actually these discussions that make A Dangerous Method the most worth watching. It just offers so much to think about, and rarely is a movie this academic so engaging.

Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen spar in A DANGEROUS METHOD.

Overall: A-
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