MFR Rating: ★ ★
A Dangerous Method is a story about the exploration of the human psyche. Unfortunately, it fails to do a great deal to accomplish this feat as a piece of cinema in itself. It’s essentially a film about deliberation and the exchanging of ideas but unfortunately it’s not particularly incisive, leaving the audience rather cold.
Starring the omnipresent Michael Fassbender (not that I’m complaining) as Carl Jung and Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud, the film looks at the relationship between two of the most influential figures at the beginning of psychoanalysis in the early twentieth century. The film also stars Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein, initially an extraordinarily emotionally troubled patient of Jung who goes on to become one of the first female psychoanalysts and sustains a complicated sexual relationship with her former therapist. The role of ‘therapist’ is what Jung wanted to be in contrast to Freud who believed his role was to observe and analyze human behaviour, one of the many differences in the outlooks of both men. It is an impressive cast which makes it rather disappointing that the performances feel relatively bland. Fassbender’s good but doesn’t really get the chance to show himself as the great actor that he is and similarly Mortensen doesn’t get nearly enough to work with. Keira Knightley’s accent was also rather grating and to me her performance looked like it was desperate for Oscars recognition causing me to never find her character terribly convincing.
Scenes are occasionally compelling, particularly at the beginning but unfortunately the intrigue isn’t maintained and I felt myself somewhat bored during large chunks of the film, with constant letters being exchanged which fail to create particularly riveting cinema. There’s not a great deal in regards to plot and it can feel fairly pedestrian and not nearly as fascinating or revealing as the methods used by these pioneers.
It seemed to end very abruptly and as the credits rolled I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to make of it but at the same time it left me with little that I was interested enough to think about. With this cast, director and topic, it had all the ingredients to be something quite special but it felt rather unenlightening. Had it been awarded a little more intensity and a little less academic pomposity then it could have been something really special.
A Dangerous Method is out now in the UK. Running time 99 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).
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Review by David Rank