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A Dangerous Method

Director: David Cronenberg

Year: 2010
Language: English
Format: Colour/DCP
Runtime: 93 min
Director: David Cronenberg
Producer: Jeremy Thomas, Marco Mehiltz, Martin Katz
Writer: Christopher Hampton, based on his play, “The Talking Cure” (based in part on John Kerr’s A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein)
Cinematographer: Peter Suschitzky
Editor: Ronald Sanders
Sound: Michael O’Farrell
Production Design: James McAteer
Costume Design: Denise Cronenberg
Music: Howard Shore
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Sarah Gadon, Vincent Cassel
Production Company: Recorded Picture Company, Prospero Pictures

Set in Vienna on the eve of World War I, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method explores the complex relationship between novice psychiatrist Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender, Shame, Jane Eyre, X-Men: First Class) and his mentor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). Studying under the already well-established Freud, Jung practices his teacher’s methods while developing his own theories based on the clinical study of psychologically disturbed patients. When Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) arrives at the clinic, both Jung and Freud are fascinated by her case and spellbound by her vulnerable yet dangerous sexuality. The beautiful and profoundly disturbed young Russian woman strikes an untapped well of unconscious emotions within Jung as he begins to probe her dark past. When his primal attraction to the masochistic Spielrein deepens and their interaction intensifies, Jung begins to question the restrictions of Freud’s methodology and develops his own approach to human behaviour and treatment.

Strong supporting turns from Vincent Cassel (Eastern Promises, Black Swan) as radical psychoanalyst Otto Gross — who encourages his patients to liberate rather than repress their base instincts — and Canadian newcomer Sarah Gadon as Jung’s morally upright wife complete this web of troubled relationships that surrounds the drama of Spielrein’s treatment. (Spielrein, incidentally, would later become one of the first female psychologists.) Sharp-witted dialogue and a pristine turn-of-the-century Vienna setting add a refined tone to this film that explores the anything-but-civilized depths of human desire.

A Dangerous Method is an extremely controlled film depicting a period when questions about the human psyche were tackled in dramatically new ways, producing groundbreaking and influential theories that are still discussed, debated, celebrated and challenged today. Adapted by acclaimed playwright and filmmaker Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons) from his play The Talking Cure (which was based in turn on John Kerr’s book A Most Dangerous Method), A Dangerous Method is about betrayal and liberation, responsibility and human frailty.

Though considered uncharacteristic of Cronenberg’s work (both because of the restrained tone and the genre), A Dangerous Method was nonetheless very well-received by critics at home and around the world. The film was nominated for eleven Genies, winning five; received kudos from the Vancouver Critics Circle; won several Directors Guild of Canada awards; and was named to the Toronto International Film Festival’s annual Canada’s Top Ten list.

Writer Marc Glassman, one of the panelists who selected Canada’s Top Ten, wrote that “Cronenberg's self-styled ‘intellectual ménage à trois’ features three stars doing impressive character turns: Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud, the founder of [psychoanalysis]; Michael Fassbender as his rebellious protégée Carl Jung and Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein, a ‘dangerous’ patient and future psychologist who exacerbates the relationship between the two men. This adaptation of Christopher Hampton's play The Talking Cure brilliantly evokes the [r]omantic passions and exquisite sophistication of the haute bourgeoisie in Europe before the outbreak of World War One.”

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