A Dangerous Method reviews

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Re: A Dangerous Method reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Sat Apr 28, 2012 11:48 pm

Sabin wrote:So...everyone saw the movie this week?


Not me. I had the great misfortune to spend money to watch it in the theater. I was in an utter stupor by the end. 2011 was a very good year overall for movies putting my brain in zombie mode while waiting for the torture to stop: The Descendants, Thor, the 2nd half of My Week With Marilyn and whatever that Robert Redford Civil War movie was all had the same, soporific effect on me. Yes, I also enjoyed Mortensen's amusingly bourgeoisie portrayal of Freud and I always love Cronenberg's disciplined, classical aesthetic. But considering that these were men whose ideas about the understanding of human behavior and how our unconscious desires affect our lives shook the foundations of Western civilization, perhaps "disciplined" was the wrong way to go about this material.

I was very recently talking with a friend who liked the movie more than I did. He said his favorite scene was when Jung's wife confronted Sabina (Knightly). I have absolutely no memory of this scene, and barely any memories for much of the movie. Sigmund may say I'm suppressing them, but it was really my lack of effort.
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Re: A Dangerous Method reviews

Postby Okri » Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:09 pm

Now, I love A Hstory of Violence, including the (relatively) dimissed ending. Didn't care for Eastern Promises at all. Curious about Cosmopolis, though I don't care for the Delillo work it's based on (full disclosure time - I went on a Dellilo binge when it came out and read The Names, White Noise, Libra, Mao II and Underworld in the space of three months. By the time I hit Cosmopolis, I might have beened Delilloed out).

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Re: A Dangerous Method reviews

Postby Bog » Fri Apr 27, 2012 11:06 pm

Okri wrote:I expect Cronenberg is largely responsible for Knightley's turn, and if the whole film had been pitched at that level, I might have liked it more.


I think you're dead on here, and I'm with you 110%...similar I feel as well to Hurt in Violence.

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Re: A Dangerous Method reviews

Postby Okri » Fri Apr 27, 2012 7:55 pm

Yep. It was flat and boring and I'm pretty sure the only reason anyone saw it was because the original production had Ralph Fiennes in it (I only read the play, so grain of salt time. Maybe the production was War Horse-ian.) I liked the movie more than I was expecting because of Knightley and Mortensen, truth be told. I expect Cronenberg is largely responsible for Knightley's turn, and if the whole film had been pitched at that level, I might have liked it more.

I saw it a while back, but didn't have much to say beyond what I said earlier.

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Re: A Dangerous Method reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Apr 25, 2012 9:49 pm

Sabin wrote:So...everyone saw the movie this week?

Just became available on Netflix.

By the way, I'll second the praise for Mortensen. I thought the movie sprang to life whenever he appeared.

Okri, didn't you say you disliked the play this was based on?

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Re: A Dangerous Method reviews

Postby Sabin » Wed Apr 25, 2012 9:00 pm

So...everyone saw the movie this week?
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Re: A Dangerous Method reviews

Postby Okri » Wed Apr 25, 2012 7:26 pm

I didn't love the film but I want to revisit it. I would single out Knightley for acclaim - it was a mesermizingly grotesque performance. Fassbender is hampered by Hampton's screenplay. Mortensen is quite strong.

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Re: A Dangerous Method reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Apr 25, 2012 7:32 am

In my April 3rd DVD review of the film I had this to say:

"The friendship and eventual conflict between the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, and his best known disciple, Carl Jung, are explored in David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method. The problem is that the film does not explore the complex relationship between the two men nearly enough, concentrating instead on the relationship between Jung and hysterical patient Sabina Spielrein, who becomes his mistress and later a psychologist of renown in her own right. It’s a problem because top-billed Keira Knightley doesn’t fully convince as Spielrein whereas Michael Fassbender as Jung and Viggo Mortensen as Freud are at the top of their respective games."

I was only mildly critical of Knightley because I thought it must be me, so glowing were the notices she received, but in truth I found her performance amateurish and ridiculous.

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Re: A Dangerous Method reviews

Postby Reza » Wed Apr 25, 2012 5:30 am

danfrank wrote:I took notice of Knightley in this film, too, but for all the wrong reasons. What a ghastly and affected performance! She resembles nothing close to a human that I've ever seen, and I've worked in Psychiatry for many years with an assortment of very traumatized patients. I was quite disappointed in this movie, especially coming from Cronenberg. It was neither edgy--though I suppose Knightley's performance was elicited to make it so--nor intellectually stimulating. It was dull, dull, dull. The only times it perked up a bit was when Mortensen appeared. I think he's a terrific actor. He's a decent leading man, but I think he'll do good business in character roles for many years to come.


I so agree with you. What a wretchedly dull film. Knightley's grotesque performance is totally not in sync with the dull happenings around her. The script needed to downplay some of her character's excesses while bringing some much needed viagra to the rest of the plot. As is the film comes off as a remarkably boring affair and extremely tedious to sit through.

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Re: A Dangerous Method reviews

Postby danfrank » Tue Apr 24, 2012 1:16 pm

I took notice of Knightley in this film, too, but for all the wrong reasons. What a ghastly and affected performance! She resembles nothing close to a human that I've ever seen, and I've worked in Psychiatry for many years with an assortment of very traumatized patients. I was quite disappointed in this movie, especially coming from Cronenberg. It was neither edgy--though I suppose Knightley's performance was elicited to make it so--nor intellectually stimulating. It was dull, dull, dull. The only times it perked up a bit was when Mortensen appeared. I think he's a terrific actor. He's a decent leading man, but I think he'll do good business in character roles for many years to come.

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Re: A Dangerous Method reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Apr 23, 2012 12:42 am

I have a friend who is quite a fan of this film and likens it to a comedy about people trying to intellectualize and in some cases control human behavior to amusing affect and he believes that the conventionality of the film, the affected stuffiness of it, is very much intentional. I'm not sure I buy that entirely, but there is something interesting at work here. And there is something that doesn't entirely work. I actually disagree with everyone on this Board and while I would never single Knightley out for an Oscar, I think she is doing something very affecting in this film. She is creating a distance between herself and Fassbender (and subsequently then through Mortenson) that it adds a touch of irreverence to their dialogue about her. In talking about A Dangerous Method one must note the choices that she makes, and they are rather unhinged in typical Cronenberg fashion. Ghastly? Amateurish? For the first time in her career I took notice of her.

I like Fassbender more here than in Shame but the film doesn't quite know what to do with him. I blame Christopher Hampton's screenplay which (as Tee describes) does just plod along to resolution. It (for lack of a better term) climaxes rather prematurely, and not terribly satisfyingly, and it remains engaging because of the people. The structure doesn't challenge Fassbender's Jung as it goes along and instead of pushing him to the edge, he just remains effectively dignified and ultimately stilted. I liked his final scene quite a bit, and it's rather hauntingly implied that he is dreaming the wars of the twenty-first century.

Mortensen is quite good. I just kept looking at him and thinking "This guy's cool." I don't know if it's great acting, and of his collaborations with Cronenberg I still vastly prefer his work in A History of Violence (a performance which, as times goes on, looks largely to accredit to the film's lavish critical success), but it's a lot of fun seeing him in this role and I wouldn't mind it a bit if he replaced Branagh or von Sydow for a nomination.
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Re: A Dangerous Method reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Apr 22, 2012 8:00 pm

Freud/Jung plus Cronenberg seems to promise combustion, but this is a shockingly conventional biopic. It's all very talky and staid -- even the spanking scenes feel rather genteel. Fassbender and Mortensen are certainly game, and give respectable performances, but the movie just plods along.

Knightley is ghastly in her early scenes and merely competent later on. But I wouldn't single out the blog era for promoting her for an Oscar. Pauline Kael wrote in the mid 70s how every year there was a performance so bad in such ostentatious ways that a claque arose demanding it receive an Oscar. It's traditional.

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Re: A Dangerous Method reviews

Postby mayukh » Wed Dec 21, 2011 1:08 pm

I thought this was impressively misguided. At best, it is an interesting failure, though interesting is too strong a word. It was "deep" only under the pretenses of its expository dialogue, the relationships between the three principals devoid of the complexity this material deserves. Cronenberg wants to arouse and complicate this narrative with titillation but all that ends up doing is cheapening the richness of this history to a spank-and-bang-me love story where psychoanalytic theory is an afterthought (kind of like how Juno just happens to be pregnant).

Knightley was so the wrong actress for this role. She obviously isn't proficient on a technical level (dreadful accent) but she also projects no sense of being. It's all physical mannerisms and surface-level displays of emotion. Taste is taste, but seeing so much of the blogosphere (and, strangely, so many critics) fawning over this performance makes me question how far our definition of what constitutes skillful screen acting has regressed. (I don't want to sound like a pompous asshole; I apologize if I come off as such) I really wonder what a more soulful actress could've done with this role. All of this is just such a missed opportunity, and I feel that Cronenberg has really lost his ability to give his obsessions any expression.

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Re: A Dangerous Method reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Thu Oct 13, 2011 5:23 pm

I expected more from this one. It's a generally superficial look at a pivotal moment in the history of psychoanalysis and, thus, of modern science. These are three of the most important intellectuals of their time, and the actors who play them, quite simply, aren't as profound as they should be - they are competent performers (well, the two men at least are, and Michael Fassbender is, even here, an obviously interesting, promising talent), but you feel that they are just "acting", that they lack depth, history, a past, or maybe they just don't read books in their private life, which isn't a crime but is a problem when you must play this kind of characters.
It's not just this. For a movie about psychoanalysis, the movie isn't as intriguing, passionate, disturbing even, as it could and probably should be. Which is strange, especially as David Cronenberg is in theory the right man for a subject like this. But it's all too flat - not bad actually, one can watch it, but ininventive, uninvolving.
As for Keira Kneightley... Her amateurish performance - a pity, because Sabina Spielrein was a fascinating, complex woman - should never even vaguely considered for an Oscar nomination.

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A Dangerous Method reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Fri Sep 02, 2011 6:08 am

Todd McCarthy's review in HR is a rave. Yeah! (Watch for spoilers.)


“We have to go into uncharted territory,” the psychiatrist Carl Jung observes in regard to his own pioneering work, and the complex, fascinating topic of Jung's and Sigmund Freud's touchy relationship and eventual falling out over a beautiful, sexually hysterical patient has been grippingly explored by director David Cronenberg and writer Christopher Hampton in A Dangerous Method. Precise, lucid and thrillingly disciplined, this story of boundary-testing in the early days of psychoanalysis is brought to vivid life by the outstanding lead performances of Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender. Sure to be well received by festival audiences in Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York (except, perhaps, by orthodox adherents of both physicians), this Sony Classics release should enjoy a vigorous life in specialized release.

Spielrein (Knightley) is a young Russian woman put under the care of Jung (Fassbender) at the Burgholzli mental hospital outside Zurich in 1904. Clearly intelligent, she is also subject to seizures so violent it looks as though she might turn inside out (if this were a different sort of Cronenberg film, she might have actually done so). Already a Freudian even though he has not yet met the master, Jung learns that Spielrein's sexual fear and sense of humiliation stems from abuse dished out by her father from the time she was four.

Screaming and alarmingly jutting out her jaw in extremis, Knightley starts at a pitch so high as to provoke fear of where she'll go from there. Fortunately, the direction is down; as her character, under Jung's fastidious care, gradually gets a grip on her issues and can assess herself with a measure of intellectual composure, the performance modulates into something fully felt and genuinely impressive.

As Jung, Fassbender creates the picture of a disciplined, successful young doctor; fastidiously groomed and sporting perfectly trimmed moustache and wire-rimmed glasses, he's got a proper, wealthy wife (Sarah Gadon), a child and a few more to come. Physically and tempermentally, he seems so trim and tight that he could almost bust apart; in fact, he must.

When the two analytical pathfinders eventually meet, they flatter one another and have much to discuss; for his part, Freud (a pleasantly aged Mortensen) is pleased to welcome a Catholic into his circle, given his concern over its perception as a strictly Jewish domain, while even at this early stage, Jung has misgivings at the older man's tendancy to connect nearly every symptom to sexuality.

Hampton pivots the drama on the character of another early analyst, Otto Gross (fierce Vincent Cassel), a cocaine addict sent by Freud to Jung. An obsessive whose motto is, “Don't repress anything,” Gross lives up to it by routinely sleeping with his patients and believes Freud (the father of six) is preoccupied by sex because he doesn't get any.

This sets Jung to agonizing over the question of why people devote so much effort to suppressing their most natural instincts, perhaps, in particular, himself. Goaded by Spielrein to divest her of her virginity, give her the sexual experience she lacks and “be ferocious” in the bargain, Jung finally casts off his habitual restraints and dives into a torrid affair with his patient, which has major implications for all three of the main characters.

Shortly after Spielrein insists that Jung admit everything to Freud, the two men sail to the United States to attend a conference. Gazing at Manhattan as their ship approaches, Freud wonders, “Do you think they know we're on our way, bringing them the plague?” It's a great line, and if indeed what they imported was a plague, it was one obliging individuals to look inward, analyze their behavior, ponder the balance of liberation and repression, question their nature rather than blandly accept it. Of all of Cronenberg's films, A Dangerous Method reminds most of the brilliant Dead Ringers, if only because they both so breathtakingly embrace the dramatic dualities within humans, especially when they brush up against the primal subjects of sex and death.

Despite having to cover stages in the trio's relationships spread over many years, Hampton's screenplay utterly coheres and never feels episodic. The dialogue is constantly confronting, articulate and stimulating, the intellectual exchanges piercing at times. Cronenberg's direction is at one with the writer's diamond-hard rigor; cinematographer Peter Suschitzky provides visuals of a pristine purity augmented by the immaculate fin de l'epoch settings, while the editing has a bracing sharpness than can only be compared to Kubrick's.

Along with Knightley's excellent work as a character with a very long emotional arc indeed, Fassbender brilliantly conveys Jung's intelligence, urge to propriety and irresistible hunger for shedding light on the mysteries of the human interior. A drier, more contained figure, Freud is brought wonderfully to life by Mortensen in a bit of unexpected casting that proves entirely successful.
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