I have never undergone psychoanalysis, and don’t really believe in it – it seems like an affectation of those wealthy enough to afford a lifetime of weekly sessions (sort of like having a masseuse for the mind) – but I do have a nostalgic fondness for the ideas of Freud and Jung (or Sigmund and Carl, if you’re on a first-name basis with them). All that grand stuff about interpreting dreams, giving names to parts of our minds – ego, id, subconscious – linking sex and death, and generally enriching conversation for generations, especially from the 1920s to the 1960s. Here in the 21st century, I’m not sure what relevance psychoanalysis has for keeping us sane, but the story of its origins as portrayed in “A Dangerous Method” was fascinating.
Seeing how these two men (and a woman) battle over whose theory will win at the next conference was a good reminder that all ideas are shaped by real people with real problems and prejudices and attitudes. The birth of something radically new like psychoanalysis can be messy, with the whole movement teetering on the edge of chaos at times. Even the name was a point of contention, “psychoanalysis” with no “o” at first, then Freud decides “psychoanalysis” sounds better and Jung meekly goes along with the change.
But the real breakout thrilling performance belongs to beautiful bony Keira Knightley, whose Sabina Spielrein starts out mega-crazy, seemingly animated by demons, makes her peace with humiliation as a turn-on, and ends up one of the first women psychoanalysts, after being the first patient Carl Jung heals by this new “talking cure” method. I had only seen Knightley in those ridiculous but lucrative “Pirates of the Caribbean” Disney flicks, and she did have a commanding presence there. However, “A Dangerous Method” is an adult role, very complex, and she made it happen.
Since I had only seen Viggo Mortensen in “Lord of the Rings,” it felt like a big leap to have him playing Sigmund Freud, but the instant he came on screen as Freud, all swordplay and battling Orcs was forgotten. Viggo creates a new image for Freud, a cigar-chain-smoking, controlling, man on a mission to cure craziness, all heavily bearded and kind of fat in the face.
Since I did not see “Inglorious Bastards,” my only exposure to Michael Fassbender was in “X-Men: First Class,” where he plays a rather nutty Magneto, which didn’t sully his portrayal of Carl Jung at all. It was a fresh look at Jung for me and my wife, actor aside.
Be prepared to have all your preconceptions of Freud, Jung, and psychoanalysis whipped out of you with a leather belt, and buckle in for a wild ride through the human mind using “A Dangerous Method.” [8 out of 10 stars]