Published Sep 15, 2011Despite not featuring any vaginal chest wounds, talking butt holes or fully nude fight sequences, Cronenberg's latest work of astounding exactitude shares a similar sense of dry humour, handling the profane academically and analytically, tossing out gags about the childhood anal stage and focusing on blood from a torn hymen without shame.
In fact, considering his directorial history of linking bodily mutilation and mutation to the psychological (typically related to sexuality), it's uniquely apropos that he tackles the nascent relationship between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) right when their speculation turned into the religion of the 20th century: psychoanalysis.
With jabs at Freud's obsession with relating all neuroses and conditions to the sexual, A Dangerous Method defines their main theses with clarity and necessary simplicity, positing Jung as the overzealous dreamer with a slight God complex and Freud as the pragmatist, using empirical evidence to diagnose and define, but not cure. The debate is one of ego and ideologue, with Jung believing in a psychological ideal each person should strive for and Freud leaning more towards intervention as a mode of arrogance.
Their conversations, and introduction, initially revolve around medical student Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) – whose eventual theories would contradict Freud's, suggesting that sex was ostensibly the death of ego, comparable to annihilation anxiety – as they attempt to deconstruct her manic physical episodes of shame, wherein a hidden arousal stems from physical abuse.
And while these archetypes eventually play off each other, each proving and disproving current psychological practices and their own dogmas, there is a constant sense of humour amidst the cerebral exchanges, occasionally repeated to ensure that everyone is on board, keeping things in the realm of entertainment.
Even the fact that Freud analyzes Jung's phallocentric dreams, linking everything to sexual repression, or that there are remarks about the human need for monotheism, is handled with a tongue-in-cheek accuracy that's often hilarious. Beyond these clever observations and knowing theoretical jabs, Cronenberg's seemingly effortless approach to the material – pacing and lining every shot and sequence with eerie precision – makes it all breeze by accessibly.
While not as showy or obvious as some of the director's other works, this will likely go down as his masterpiece in years to come once a bit of perspective on the subject reveals just how astute and culturally critical it really is. (eOne)