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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Dangerous Method (Limited Release Date: 11-23-2011)

        At first glance, it might seem strange for Director David Cronenberg to take on a project consisting almost exclusively of dialogue. The lauded auteur has shown a real favoring for the graphic, from the gangsters of Eastern Promises, to the unending self-mutilation of The Fly. The grotesque has always been a preoccupation of Cronenberg's, observing how it effects our body images, and our sexual apatites. Given all of this, from this non-viceral, more scholarly paradigm, it only takes a few minutes for A Dangerous Method to proclaim itself as perfectly befitting the rest of his existing canon.

        At the turn of the century, a pair of great minds struggle to explain the many twists and turns of the human mind. Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) presently sits at the top, his meditations on sexual insecurity forming the basis of almost all of his studies. A new young genius, Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), is poised to become one of the world's premiere thinkers, but he has one extreme challenge coming his way first. Enter Sabina Spielrein (Kiera Knightly), an utter mess of a human who can hardly manage to speak a word out of her compulsively twitching body. With the help of Freud, both solicited and otherwise, Jung sets out to cure Spielrein of her afflictions, but over the years that follow, the doctor-patient relationship evolves into something else entirely.

        The most important distinction to make about A Dangerous Method is wether or not you're on board with Knightly's performance. Despite the presence of more lofty historical names like Freud and Jung, it's Spielrein who is easily the most flashy role of the film, displaying utter madness before gradually calming down, and becoming a more stable lead figure, all the while sporting a Russian accent. It is the opinion of this critic that Knightly simply isn't up to such a role, but that's more the film's fault than the actress. The absurd array of things expected from the character would be just about impossible for any actress to achieve, the kind of role that, when fully-realized, is a near garintee of snagging an Oscar. So, no, the swivel point of the film doesn't really work for me personally, but the things swiveling around it are often grand.

        Fassbender and Mortensen are just plain great actors, here given much more subtle material than the two are often used to, both more than capable of scaling their craft down. Fassbender, the true lead of the film, has a perfect accent, and stiff bodily mannerisms that speak volumes to his self image. Mortensen, on the other hand, takes on a character much more content with his existing accomplishments, his dry, sarcastic critics serving as the film's lone source of humor. The script, as adapted by Christopher Hampton from his own stage play, The Talking Cure, is chuck-full of intellectual intrigue, ever-involving despite its occasional over-reaches and over-simplifications. Yes, A Dangerous Method is a good movie, but its one that paints itself into a corner by concocting a character who is nearly impossible to play. None the less, those inclined towards films composed of compulsive discourse would be wise to check this one out.

Grade: B

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