Jung and the restless
AN UNDENIABLY fascinating and achingly formal period drama, A Dangerous Method transports the viewer to a crucial crossroads in the evolution of modern psychoanalysis.
( Most of you probably nodded off during that opening paragraph. Go get a coffee and I’ll wait for you below.)
There’s due to be a head- on collision between two founding fathers of therapy for the mind. But being the early 1900s and all, it’s going to take yonks for it to happen. Cars didn’t go that fast back then, remember?
To help the time pass, we are first introduced to a worryingly nervous young Russian named Sabina Spielrein ( Keira Knightley). Her favourite pastimes, she says, are ‘‘ suicide and interplanetary travel’’.
This statement can only lead the viewer to deduce the following – Miss Spielrein is: ( a) lying; ( b) not that good at either discipline; or ( c) stark raving mad.
All of this makes her the perfect patient for aspiring super- shrink Carl Jung ( Michael Fassbender). He believes this new- fangled psycho- therapy is so crazy it just might work.
Jung soon becomes a pen pal, and then a best bud, of the one and only Sigmund Freud ( Viggo Mortensen). But the two are destined to become frenemies on ideological grounds.
In short, Siggy reckons any problem with the brain box is all about sex. Carl kind of agrees for a while, then comes to think the psyche isn’t strictly hardwired to the crotch.
The film steps purposefully through the tale. The vibe is confident, committed, and – let’s not beat about the long black couch here – just that little bit boring.
Fassbender and Mortensen complete their duties with clinical precision, though overdo the pregnant pauses and quizzical stares. Perhaps they were billing by the hour?