A Dangerous Method is an enjoyable film, especially in the context of today’s multiplex teen fodder; it fairly successfully manages to dramatise a clash of ideas and personalities, although it doesn’t go as far as it could in engaging the audience in what was at stake in the three- way dynamic at the heart of the film. This is part of the pleasures and pitfalls of Croenenberg’s control freak style.
It’s probably the best of Croenenberg’s post- horror films. It’s still very identifiably a film of his, more so than the relatively anonymous A History of Violence. It displays what’s original in his signature, that cerebral relish of the physical. Here, it’s not exploding heads or revolting parasites, but the interiors of consulting rooms, the accoutrements of the analyst and writer. He still can’t resist a close up of the blood stain on the bed sheets where Sabina Spielrein (Knightley) has had sex for the first time; and his style has the authority to induce the viewer to partake in his cool fascination.
The initial set up of A Dangerous Method is Spielrein entering treatment under Jung, along with the early stages of Freud and Jung’s relationship. Relationship is the right word; the film is obviously post-Freudian and we’re invited to observe the unspoken dynamics, especially as Jung is seduced by Freud, then rebels against his paternal authority. In the early parts of the film, Jung appears as the more flexible and responsive to illness, and we are prompted to share his scepticism at Freud’s insistence on sex as the basis for all the symptoms of ill health they are presented with. By now Jung’s position is easy to identify with. If Freud was a revolutionary in implicating subconscious motives and desires as underpinning our motivations and everyday life, his fixation on the ‘sexual neuroses’ engendered in infancy, at the expense of all else, now seems reductive at best. So when Jung expresses his scepticism, it’s easy to see him as the superior analyst. This is emphasised when Vincent Cassell appears as a louche, revolting but entertaining analyst Otto Gross, showing that the psychoanalytic spiel of the dangers of repressing desire can result in decadent self-indulgence. He’s like Serge Gainsbourg as an analyst, and he obviously shouldn’t be let anywhere near a patient.
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