Monday, January 9, 2012


I watched this film with some friends in the movie business a while ago and was afraid while I was watching it that they would see it as too talky, and the performances as too much, especially Keira Knightley's. I was uneasy because while a part of my brain initially feared I might feel the same way, my heart was touched and my brain soon followed.

In the end I thought it was one of the best movies I've seen in a while and so did my friends, with outstanding performances from everyone. Knightley plays an historically important patient of Carl Jung in the early stages of his development as one of the key figures in the transformation of psychology, the other being Freud of course. It's a tour de force performance, extremely brave and original.

I've been reading and hearing about Michael Fassbender, who grew up in Ireland the son of a German immigrant father and Irish mother. Mostly it's been about his looks as well as his acting. But I've only seen him as Bobby Sands in HUNGER, the unique study of the Irish hero who took his opposition of the English control of Northern Ireland to the extreme of fasting to his death in protest for not being treated as a political prisoner. That was almost a silent movie, as my friend Terence pointed out. At any rate in that film it wasn't about his looks.

Neither is it in DANGEROUS METHOD, though his eyes do mesmerize and are stunningly intense. But he plays the younger Jung as a tightly contained if brilliant intellectual mostly, and it worked for me completely.

Then there's Viggo Mortensen, another actor often noted for his hunkiness as well as his acting. He so loses himself in the role of Freud that it took me a moment of seeing him on screen before I remembered it was him. His performance, as Fassbender's, is mostly understated, though I could see some critics resisting and seeing it as too much of a caricature. Not me.

The secondary players were all terrific too. Vincant Cassel as a famous early influence on Jung and the lovely Sarah Gadon as Jung's wife. Hers is a literally beautifully controlled performance I thought.

Adapted into a play from a book by John Kerr, then turned into a screenplay by Christopher Hampton, it takes a lot of liberties with private moments between these characters we can't know that explicitly, even with contemporary notes and case studies and letters etc.

But it does it in ways I found intellectually and even morally challenging and I suspect much as it must have been at the time, and some of us have experienced in our own transformative times like the 1960s. Mostly it's just a compelling story of intensely smart and original people trying to work through their own issues while creating a whole new way to view some very important human challenges.

I highly recommend it.

Oh, and one of the most surprising things about this movie is it was directed by David Cronenberg, the last director I would have thought of if I hadn't seen the credits before I watched it. It is, after all, a gorgeously shot costume drama, a period piece that has elements of melodrama but is based on real people and history. Amazing.


Anonymous said...

Cronenberg also directed Viggo and Vincent in the somewhat amazing movie EASTERN PROMISES, a fav of mine.


Lally said...

Of mine as well. Maybe DANGEROUS METHOD isn't as big a stretch for him as I posited. Let me know what you think when you see it, if you haven't yet.