Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Dangerous Method


I just got back from watching A Dangerous Method starring Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley. It's a story about how Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud crossed paths which led to the birth of psychoanalysis.

Let's do negatives first. First off, Keira Knightley. I wasn't convinced by her acting and I can't say I care much about the incoherent Russian accent she tries to do. The casting would have been spot-on if it wasn't for Knightley's presence which stands out like a sore thumb. The only Keira film in which I think she did a good job was Bend It Like Beckham, where she was most believable as a tomboyish English girl. I can't actually spell out my criteria of a bad acting. All I know is that whenever Keira was on screen, I saw her as the celebrity Keira Knightley and not as Sabina Spielrein. The thing is, Sabina is such a pivotal character to the movie, the very reason of the clash between Jung and Freud. Knightley could have easily carried the whole movie, but in my opinion, she fell flat.

Secondly, I think the film is too short and condensed resulting in the story of Otto Gross being grossly (ha!) underdeveloped. I didn't quite get the whole conflict between Jung and his wife as things went so fast. The movie is so compressed that it seemingly took only two therapy sessions for Jung to completely cure Sabina who is supposed to be this hopeless suicidal nutjob. I completely understand the difficulty of squeezing a parallel biopic of two important figures in psychoanalysis within a short time frame, but such a film largely deserves a much longer running time in order for the viewers to really grasp the intensity of the dispute between the two protagonists and for the emotions to seep in. I really would have loved to see more of Sigmund Freud's character since in this movie Freud doesn't get enough screen time. The short, intermittent bits we see of him somehow make him come off as the bad guy who's cocky, intransigent, extremely self-righteous and even slightly racist. Then again, you cannot go see a movie hoping it would be as detailed as the book it is adapted from. So I'll try reading the book when I have time.

Now we'll start on the positives. Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen nailed it as Jung and Freud, respectively. Vincent Cassel, despite having only five minutes of screen time, did a pretty good job depicting Otto Gross, a fellow psychoanalyst who's also a polygamous sex addict.

The movie is set in Switzerland around the turn of the century, so you can expect breathtaking sceneries of la belle époque. The script is top notch. Not too difficult for the uninitiated in psychology, and not too simplified so as to insult the viewers' intelligence. People still need some notions in psychology in order not to get completely lost, but usually people who decide to watch A Dangerous Method are those who already know who Freud is and have a vague idea of what he did to change history.

This film is based on a true story so it doesn't have the usual beginning-conflict-climax-resolution narrative structure, and I like that.

All in all, I think this is a great movie with very heavy but not superfluous dialogues. You have to listen to every bit, every analogy and every retelling of dream.

It made me think, and it taught me things. I love going out of the movie theater feeling that I have learned new stuff.

I went with a friend who is not at all into psychology, and all he could say at the end of the movie was, "Bodoh punya cerita. Nasib baik Keira Knightley tunjuk tetek."


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