By Chris Rebholz

Nov 22, 2011 06:53 PM EST


A Dangerous Method Theatrical Review

David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method is a film that grows on you the more you think about it; even considering the filmmaker's recent efforts, it is a picture that you keep waiting to get going, but it never quite does; however it nestles itself into your mind, where its oddness and intricacies continue to resonate long after the credits have rolled. The filmmaker clearly could have gone with the usual big effects, sensual shots of our main cast, and intense drama. But instead he chose a more refined route, which by the final shots, leaves you re-evaluating everything that transpired prior.

What it does have, at its center, is a performance by Keira Knightley that is incredible in its depth and power. The picture opens with a howl from her, a lengthy cry of heartache and pain as her character Sabrina Speilrein is brought to an asylum, where she becomes a test case for young Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and his new style of treatment inspired by the well-known Sigmund Freud, which he calls "the talking cure." There will be no unorthodox treatment as seen in the past, "just talk." Even the act of talking is difficult for Speilrein, and Knightley does a remarkable job in these first few scenes, as she forces the words out of her character's mouth in believable stutters and tortured fits. It is certainly not a subdued performance and it shouldn't be, but there are subtleties to it: the small movements of her body while she is being treated (always shot from behind her) to the way her eyes smolder with an intense fury.

Her treatment is a success, and Jung soon finds himself keeping the company of Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) in a performance that almost became something akin to humorous at time; he is never without his cigar and at one point he is able to pull a laugh from the audience with a well-timed "Ah." Freud decides that with Jung's success he may be ready for something more challenging and sends him a therapist-turned-patient (Otto Gross) who finds devilish pleasure in relating to the doctor how he goes about seducing his patients. The timing of this situation could be better for Jung who is becoming more and more attracted to the charms of Sabrina, much to the delight of Otto.

The lead up to Sabrina's appearance and her eventual dalliance with Jung seem to come quite quickly, it feels like Cronenberg rushed his way to these plot points. But even with that rushed sense of timing, Cronenberg does a superb job of sculpting an excellent narrative and drawing beautiful performances from his actors. He is clearly an expert filmmaker who knows exactly what he wants from each shot and had no problem interpreting the screenplay. The obvious rivalry between Jung and Freud simmers to a slow boil, as jealousy, sex and mental stimuli become tangled for everyone.

Knightley's performance is not a "one-shot", she is able to slowly reveal her character's true intentions as the film progresses and at no point does her performance waver in any way. You can see the intensity behind her eyes during her sessions with Jung as he discusses monogamy. You can tell she wants to explode from her seat simply by studying her eyes. Fassbender also brings a surprising performance here; his composed and supposed moral doctor is as human as the next. By the final act of the film he cracks open the powder keg of his emotions which leaves you stunned. A Dangerous Method seemed was promised to be a film of more elicit material from the early reviews, but while it certainly isn't that, it does come off way more interesting and in the end, that's saying something. 

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MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 99 minutes
Distributed By: Sony Pictures Classics

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