A Dangerous Method

a film by David Cronenberg

Perhaps not as cleverly deceptive as A History of Violence (in my not-so-humble opinion, the director's greatest and gutsiest work) nor as balls-out as Crash (the other film in the Canadian's oeuvre that comes closest to a masterpiece), but only the man who gave us, along with the aforementioned two films, Dead Ringers, The Fly, and the filmic version of Burroughs' Naked Lunch, could have put so much disturbing dread, so much perverse glee, so much wicked wilds into the now-infamous psychoanalytical battle song of the mystical Jung and the Svengali-like Freud. Cronenberg is one of those directors with the ability to arouse and disgust you simultaneously, and once again, like in Videodrome and Crash (to name just two), he does it here in this tale of psychological horror disguised as an analytical period piece. The film is subtly dirty, secretly filthy even, and that is just how we want it - just how we desire it.

Cronenberg has always had a rather perversely funny way about showing sexual encounters in his film (and again, we must look back at Crash as the prime example of such perversity), so a film about Freudian psychoanalysis and the particular case of Sabina Spielrein, a patient and eventually lover of Jung, and the catalyst (at least in this version of the story, based on Christopher Hampton's 2002 stage play, The Talking Cure, which in turn was based upon the 1993 novel A Most Dangerous Method by John Kerr) of the break between Jung and his one-time mentor Freud, was ripe for the Cronenbergian touch. When we watch as Keira Knightley's Sabina tells her childhood fears to Michael Fassbender's Jung, her jaw jutting out as if to make a silent but tragic banshee's scream, or when she is belt-whipped by Fassbender's Jung, and see the look of orgasmic power shooting from the actress's surprisingly nuanced face, Cronenberg has enraptured us inside his own web of sexual obsession - and that is just what a film such as this needs to have.

A Dangerous Method is a strange concoction. Seemingly a departure for Cronenberg, the film, with its sexual obsession and perverse one-upmanship, is secretly right up the director's alley. Most attuned to the director's Dead Ringers (sexual obsession, psychosis) and, of course Crash (socially perverse actions that are merely the workings of a person's natural sexuality), but more subtly maneuvered (an attribute that comes with age perhaps?), A Dangerous Method, which incidentally also stars an especially devilish Viggo Mortensen as Herr Freud (in his third collaboration with the director), is a film that may seem a bit awkward at first as the viewer is not sure which direction one is about to take, but ends as a bubbling cauldron of, for lack of a better or more encompassing term, chewy Cronenbergian goodness. In sum, both unexpected territory for the director and typically lurid Cronenberg material - a fiery juxtaposition that creates such an atmosphere as to make this one of the master's best and most mature works. [11/23/11]