A Dangerous Method (2011) *


Directed with classical precision by David Cronenberg and very effective in parts, this is an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to combine psychoanalytic case study with straight biographical drama. The all too short occasions when the film focuses exclusively on the latter, in a series of simply staged but engrossing conversation scenes between Michael Fassbender's Jung and Viggo Mortensen's Freud, seemed by far the most impressive to me; by contrast, the scenes of romantic strife and hysteria become quickly exhausting.
So in effect it plays as two movies: a splashy, energetic but strangely dull one with Keira Knightley screaming and contorting, and getting her bum smacked by Jung, and a measured, sedate but strangely compelling one with the two doctors discussing the absurdities of their ideas in their brown wood studies, in measured tones and with the accompaniment of delicious-looking liqueurs, cigars and pipes. That the two are nonetheless linked, in that the influence of the Freudian theoretical model had a generally tragic effect on psychological well-being in the twentieth century and beyond, is a relevant point but, sadly, not one the film seems overly willing to make, content as it is to view the dawn of psychoanalysis as of purely historic relevance.

In all technical respects the film is well up to par, save in the modern tragedy that some beautiful compositions and visual subjects must now be farcically sacrificed at the altar of inadequate digital photography and projection. Reason abandoned in pursuit of progress: a neat parallel with the subject. All things considered, probably Cronenberg's best film since The Brood, not that there's much competition.