Review: 'A Dangerous Method'

Michael Fassbender stars as famed therapist Carl Jung. Submitted photo.

A Dangerous Method (showtimes) finds director David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises, Naked Lunch, Dead

Ringers, The Fly, The Dead Zone, Videodrome)

tabling the disturbing freak-o-rama imagery that

helped build him a cult following, instead taking a very civilized, mostly

low-key approach as he tells the fact-based story of therapist Carl Jung

(Michael Fassbender) and patient turned colleague

turned mistress Sabrina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). The other primary story follows the wary

friendship between Jung and Freud (Viggo Mortensen).

The film begins in Zurich in 1904, as Speilrein

is brought to Jung's clinic for treatment. The young woman suffers from an

anxiety disorder, hysteria and Lord knows what else. No one will accuse Knightley of

playing it safe during the segment. She jerks about wild-eyed, screaming,

sobbing and laughing, flailing about as she tries to escape her keepers. She

appears to have muscle spasms, and she frequently juts out her lower jaw while

growling and generally acting feral. In short, she looks like someone

desperately trying to turn into a werewolf.

Spielrein soon meets Jung, and

let's pause to talk about the actor for a moment. 2011 was a banner year for

Michael Fassbender, as the grim Magneto in X-Men:

First Class

, an even grimmer sex addict in Shame and for his work

here. In the first two films, Fassbender is

clean-shaven and appears handsome, but severe and intimidating. In A

Dangerous Method, he sports a mustache which - this is so bizarre - makes

him resemble Bob Saget.

How disconcerting it is to watch discussions about the

intricacies of the human mind between the co-star of Full House and a

wannabe Werewolf of London. The evolving relationship between Jung and Spielrein is consistently interesting; Spielrein,

an aspiring doctor herself, proves a worthy peer to Jung, though her eyes still

get buggy when she feels threatened. The only tepid aspect of the relationship

comes when it turns sexual: The pair get a little

S&M thing going that seems more mechanical than erotic, at least on Jung's

side of the bedroom.

The relationship between Jung and Freud is engaging, if more

predictable. Jung greatly admires Freud and enjoys becoming friends with such a

major figure, but finds Freud's incessant sexual interpretations constricting.

Freud, played by Mortensen with just the right amount of authority and

self-satisfaction, appreciates Jung, but finds his interest in pursuing ESP and

other supernatural subjects disturbing and potentially damaging to their

still-controversial profession.

Eventually both storylines meet, as is no surprise when a

respected doctor has a mistress in the same field and an aristocratic wife

(Sarah Gadon) who becomes aware of the extramarital

hijinks. A third storyline involves a mentally ill colleague of Freud's,

psychiatrist Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel), who stirs the pot with his disdain

for social oppression.

A Dangerous Method is talky, which is to be expected

for a film based in part on a stage play, but most of it works. Intellectually

and emotionally stimulating, it doesn't boil, it simmers. Except

for the part where Spielrein goes bat-ass crazy, of



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