Sex, Lies, and
As far as the films of David Cronenberg go, his latest, A Dangerous Method, is perhaps among his more incidental work in terms of his genre-bending taste. That’s not to say that there aren’t any of those typically wonderful wonderful Cronenbergian themes of sexuality , identity, perversion and psychological sprawled across what is a wonderfully crafted and lavishly designed drama. Unlike some of Cronenberg’s more explosive and incendiary films, A Dangerous Method is noticeably restrained and is unlikely to shock, appall and adversely pleasure audiences in such a divisive manner in the way that films such as Crash and A History of Violence have so done. Some devout Cronenberg fans may be left underwhelmed at the lack of overtly twisted
Words by Jack Jones
A Dangerous Method is in cinemas 10 February
â€œa Method to the Madnessâ€?
imagery or ‘body horror’ that has made the Canadian filmmaker so highy regarded in the eyes of his followers. Fantastic performances, however, from both Keira Knightley and Viggo Mortensen offer much in the way of both the hysterical and the darkly comic - the likes of which which are reminiscent of Cronenberg’s curiously humourous 1986 hit film The Fly that A Dangerous Method is another fine addition to what is already one of the finest collections of films by a single filmmaker. Adapted from Christopher Hampton’s play The Talking Cure, A Dangerous Method focuses on the relationship between eminent psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. When Jung encounters a disturbed young Russian girl, Sabina Spielrein, and takes her on as a patient, his relationship with her causes friction between himself and his long-time mentor and idol. Suggestions that Freud, a Jew, had issues with Jung, a wealthy Ayrian, permeates throughout the film thanks to an undercurrent of tensions concerning racial and social hierarchies. Though very little is actually explicitly said on these issues, Cronenberg favours a more subtle approach here, there is a bristling war of words between the two intellects of Jung and Freud that provides all the fireworks. One of the many subtle brilliances of A Dangerous Method is the use of costume and costume design as an atmospheric tool. Everything is tucked in and buttoned up, restrained and imprisoned.
While underneath there is a sexual urge bubbling away and bursting at the seems. Just as Cronenberg had explored in many of his films to date and most recently in A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, themes of identity and true-self are again very prevalent. Though the implied themes of sexual identity and freedom - the likes of which Vincent Cassel preaches about in a brilliant cameo as a bohemian, sex obsessed neurotic - never quite hit the heights of the explosive sexual underworld
“Everything is tucked in, buttoned up, restrained and imprisoned” of Crash, A Dangerous Method is a much more measured film but that is not to say it is no less entertaining. Of course, when Cronenberg decides to let rip, he certainly lets rip. The much publicised sex scenes and ‘spanking’ involving Keira Knightley are indeed on the graphic side, but is it a news story in itself? Because of Knightley’s fame and ‘English Rose’ image anything regarding sex or nudity will be
a headline. Let us not forget, however, that, aside from her baring all for the camera, there is also a flourishing perfromance from Knightley as she tackles a difficult and no doubt challenging role. After some promising work in Mark Romenek’s much underrated Never Let Me Go and now in A Dangerous Method, there is evidently much to come from an actress who, finally, has found some projects that best display her talents. The irrepressible Michael Fassbender on the other hand is no stranger to uncompromising subject matter or directors - we’ve seen Fassbender in even more compromising situations already this year thanks to Steve McQueen’s explosive second film Shame - and he is superb as the sexually curious and tempted Carl Jung. But the star of the show is undoubtedly Viggo Mortensen as the eponymous Freud. As a physically menacing force in both Eastern Promises and A History of Violence - and even in the deeply flawed hot pant fest that was G.I. Jane Moretensen is ever so convincing. But as the wizard-like Freud, Mortensen flexes more of a comic muscle with an extremely dry delivery of Hampton’s zinging script. A Dangerous Method might be a battle between two great intellects, but when it comes to Freud he wins the battle of wits. A joy as ever to see genius such as David Cronenberg at work, and while this is not his most outstanding, there’s once again a method to the madness.