Canadian director David Cronenberg has left the “bio-horror” far behind, but still likes a bit of a freakshow, at least to judge by A Dangerous Method. Covering a decade at the beginning of the last century, this rather stilted chamber piece depicts the relationship between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) at the dawn of psychoanalysis. Adding a bit of real sex to all the talk is Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), an intelligent, highly disturbed patient with masochistic tendencies who is destined to become Jung’s lover.
Fassbender, an unexpressive actor, is adequate to the task of portraying an emotionally repressed man mired in a comfortable but passionless marriage. Knightley gives a painfully mannered performance, full of mad-woman shrieks and jaw-jutting facial contortions. This leaves just Mortensen to draw the audience in. Several scenes of Jung and Freud strolling through exquisitely manicured Italianate gardens capture civilization well enough, but surely an apt visual correlative for the discovery of the new continent of subconscious desire would be a visit to the monkey house with chimps masturbating and hurling dung at each other. A Dangerous Method is of intellectual interest and contains sly touches and a few moments that sting with feminist insight. But for a film literally obsessed with sex and sprinkled with scenes of bare-bottomed flogging, it’s surprisingly dull. M
A Dangerous Method ★ ★ ★
Directed by David Cronenberg
Starring Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen
R – 99 minutes; Continues at The Odeon
After a hard day on memory’s picket line screaming at Margaret Thatcher in her imperious prime you’re going to need to soothe your throat with a cold beer. Best go to Swans for a black and tan, that lushly flavourful blend of ale and stout. And maybe get the jukebox to play “Stand Down Margaret” by the English Beat!