David Cronenbeg’s reputation for body horror seemed to disappear in the early 00’s with his odd but intriguing Spider. It resurfaced in much more precise and real ways in both Eastern Promises and A History of Violence using up close and personal gore to shocking effect. Exploding heads, guns made of human bodies, disease, vomit and even James Woods’ very own vagina have all made us squirm throught his films but is it that odd to sudgest that the most horrific and disturbing thing Cronenberg has shot yet is Keria Knightley’s insane facial contortions in A Dangerous Method?
The opening scene shows Sabrina Spielrein (Knightley) at the height of mental turmoil, being driven to a Swiss hospital and to Carl Jung (Micheal Fassbender) where she will be treated by him, prodded (spanked) and cured and also where their lives will intersect with a stubborn, rule writing, game changing but poor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortenson). It’s a film bustling with complex questions and ideas towards sex, life and dreams, using all three as a looking glass into the diagnosis of each character and their tendencies towards or away from eachother’s career and ideologies.
Fassbender’s Jung is driven to find a new and improved ”talking” therapy and becomes ever disillusioned with his hero Freud’s belief that every instinct we rely on comes from a sexual thought or at least from the repression of one. Freud in turn is forced to question his stale standing in the ranks of the philosophical realm, drawn in a paternal way to Jung but at the same time slightly dazzled by his radical ideas, to the extent of sending a rather convincing/insane mind/patient (Vincent Cassel) to enrich or perhaps maybe even to distract Jung from suceeding in his work.
However weighty and (for some) off putting a film it may seem, A Dangerous Method is exceptionally and clicically well made, played and executed. More than that though it’s strangly entertaining and darkly darkly comic, a feat in itself considering the heavy material wrung from Christopher Hampton’s play The Talking Method. The cast are exceptional, Cronenberg’s hand is subtly present and, though it lacks the power or intensity of his last two London based films, it’s an interesting exercise in restraint for a director still trying and succeeding so far into a dazzlingly complicated career.