David Cronenberg's depiction of a Freud-Jung romantic rivalry is disappointingly listless
Sony Picture Classic
Movies and psychoanalysis have a long shared history. Influential scholars such as Christian Metz and Laura Mulvey incorporated the Freudian theory to study a wide range of cinema. David Cronenberg, who's made films directly concerned with horrors visited upon the human body (The Fly, The Brood) and perverse sexual impulses (Videodrome, Crash), is one of the modern directors most often examined by those psychoanalytic film theorists.
So Cronenberg is a natural choice to direct A Dangerous Method, a depiction of the illicit, sadomasochistic relationship that allegedly developed between the married Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and his patient Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) during the early days of the psychoanalytic movement at the beginning of the 20th Century.
If that weren't enough, Freud himself—played by frequent Cronenberg collaborator Viggo Mortensen—is a major figure here, and the film chronicles the development and dissolution of the Austrian doctor's close relationship with Jung.
Yet this is an exceedingly limp production, a high-minded enterprise rendered without the intensity of Cronenberg's best work. It's a smart study of the root causes of destructive human behavior, but there's a flat quality to the dark impulses on display. For a movie that's in large part predicated on an explosion of repressed desires, there's surprisingly little stark visceral feeling.