Telluride Review: Cronenberg's Fascinating, Dull 'A Dangerous Method'

September 6, 2011

A Dangerous Method

With a filmography including Scanners, The Fly and Videodrome, one would expect David Cronenberg to dabble in fascinating subjects yet still craft a film that's entertaining—even exciting—to watch. That's what I was hoping to see with A Dangerous Method, his new film about psychoanalysis, Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, but unfortunately Cronenberg only included half of that cinematic equation in this film. That half is the fascinating half, as Dangerous Method is immensely fascinating to watch, delving into the early origins of psychoanalysis in a very intriguing way, but the film overall is rather dull and ultimately quite forgettable.

Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, adapted by screenwriter Christopher Hampton from John Kerr's book, focuses primarily on Carl Jung (played by Michael Fassbender), a Swiss psychiatrist who is influenced by the legendary Sigmund Freud (played by Viggo Mortensen). The actual story is framed around a Russian patient he takes on, affected by paternal abuse in her childhood, whom he eventually has an adulterous relationship with, almost partially for additional research into his own controversial treatment methods. Keira Knightley plays the Russian, named Sabina Spielrein, and is actually one of the most exciting parts of the film, initially starting out nearly over-the-top in her crazy psycho-portrayal as a madwoman, but eventually settling into a more honed, yet impressive, performance throughout the later half of the film.

Despite all of this, including Cronenberg's fantastic production values (give or take some shoddy CGI in one scene) and camerawork, the film is still fairly dull. It contains mostly scenes of talking and discussion, which is fascinating to follow especially for anyone who has studied psychology, but doesn't provide much to enjoy besides a fairly standard story of mistresses and jealousy. Even the moments where Jung and Freud finally meet up, which should be some of the most intense and captivating, are not as fervent as they could've been. If only this wasn't just another straight period drama focused mostly on the relationship between Jung and Spielrein, it might have actually been a bit more memorable. Alas, I've already started forgetting it.

Out of everyone in the film, I was most impressed by Keira Knightley, who stands out above Fassbender and Mortensen, which is a bit odd considering I know these two are very talented actors. Fassbender, who's born of German and Irish parents, hardly puts on a Swiss persona at all, and still seemed like the more charming Irishman we know him to be. Vincent Cassel makes a surprisingly poignant appearance as Otto Gross as well. Maybe period pieces like this just bore me, or maybe Cronenberg's film doesn't have the substance to be anything more than forgettable, but A Dangerous Method didn't leave much of a lasting impression.

Alex's Telluride Rating: 6 out of 10

Find more posts: Opinions, Review, Telluride 11



Uhm....I agree on a certain level, but this is ridiculous 🙂 "Fassbender, who's born of German and Irish parents, hardly puts on a Swiss persona at all, and still seemed like the more charming Irishman" no way

Leyla11 on Sep 7, 2011


Yeah 'swiss persona' is a pretty vague criticism. Does that mean he didn't put on enough of a swiss accent for you? Or does it mean that his character didn't live up to whatever a swiss persona is? Should Carl Jung have spent the movie making watches and laundering money for the Nazi's?

Lebowski on Sep 7, 2011


Yes, he didn't have a Swiss accent, he didn't seem Swiss at all. Sure, maybe if he was just playing some made up character, but he's playing a VERY well known real-life person, and yet didn't seem like he even tried to play anyone besides himself. On the other hand, Viggo Mortensen actually did a great job of playing an Austrian neurologist, accent and all.

Alex Billington on Sep 7, 2011


Michael Fassbender is the only reason I would see it. He is my favorite actor. But that mustache is kinda... erm.. :/ well.. just no. Either way, I LOVE YOU FASSY!!

Jordyn on Sep 7, 2011


I'm very excited to see this!!

Davide Coppola on Sep 7, 2011


my personal taste is generally always in direct polar opposition to alex billingtions. his lackluster response to this film essentially guarantee's it to be a wonderful film.  again, love this site for the scoop, but dear god, the criticism is abysmal. 

Endingtheworld on Sep 7, 2011


reminds me of Another Year and his reception. me, totally in love with that film. also, still haven't seen a film by Cronenberg that would leave me lukewarm at worst.

Robert L. Tuva on Sep 7, 2011


So be it, I have an opinion, you have one as well. This is not criticism so much as it is just my opinion/reaction to a film I saw. I didn't like it and I think it's a bit boring and troubled, but those are just my feelings on it, and you will have your own as well.

Alex Billington on Sep 8, 2011


Love Cronenberg one of the greatest directors of all time. 

Loser on Sep 7, 2011


I was sitting in front of Alex at the screening of A Dangerous Method. I liked the film mostly because it was so interesting to know the true story about Jung, Freud, and Spielrein. I talked to Chris Hampton, the writer, after wards. He said that everything in the film was accurate, down to the letters that were read from Jung, Freud and Spielrein. That was fascinating.

Alyne on Sep 7, 2011

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