Friday, 23 March 2012


Paramount Pictures
Now Showing

What is it about Michael Fassbender and sex? Obviously the German-born, Irish raised actor exudes sex appeal, from his turn as the Brit actor-playing-German in Inglorious Basterds to his Magneto in X-Men: First Class. Now, having played a sex addict in last month's release, Shame, he's playing Carl Jung, protege of Sigmund Freud and one of the forefathers of modern psychoanalysis, in A Dangerous Method.

Not that's there's a lot of sex in David Cronenberg's film version of Christopher Hampton's screenplay (adapted from his own stageplay). That is, not a lot of actual sex. For Jung and Freud (Viggo Mortensen, who one could easily mistake for Ed Harris) spend a great deal of the film discussing, analyzing and debating (in person and via written correspondence) the nature of human sexuality.

A Dangerous Method charts this relationship, which begins as one of reverence by the younger Jung for the elder statesman Freud, but which develops into one of animosity and rivalry as the student seeks to explore other avenues of assessing the human mind. "Why must everything relate to sex?", Jung laments at one point about his mentor's philosophies.

Of course, Jung isn't entirely turned off to the connection between the mind and the genitalia, and it's a connection he comes to explore, figuratively and literally, with Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), a patient at his Swiss clinic.

Sabina, all jutting jaw and flailing limbs, arrives at Jung's clinic to be treated for hysteria in the film's opening scene, and Knightley's overtly physical and thickly-accented (Spielrein is Russian) performance will polarize -- you'll either go with it or laugh at her.

But I believe it's one of the actress's strongest screen turns yet. For mine, she bests both Fassbender and Mortensen (which is no mean feat) by giving Sabina a spark which their Jung and Freud severely lack.

Spielrein becomes the married Jung's lover but she also progresses from patient to colleague, pursuing her own studies into psychoanalysis and challenging both the theories of Jung and Freud. She also further complicates the relationship between the two men, though not as the result of a love triangle as the film's poster art would have us believe.

I'm sure there is much in A Dangerous Method that will be of interest to those familiar with the works of Jung and Freud, and who have a greater understanding of psychoanalysis than me.

And I can appreciate the notion that the brain is the most important sex organ, and we're limited more so by what our mind allows than does society. But Cronenberg and Hampton's talkative exploration didn't fire my imagination (or my loins). Personally, I could do with a little less conversation and a little more action.