Ever since I heard there was going to be a film featuring Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, I have excitedly anticipated “A Dangerous Method.” I first became aware of Jung’s work in psychology when I applied some of his ideas to a paper on Frankenstein in 12th grade. I was dabbling with Wicca at the time, and his ideas about archetypes, the universal unconscious, the dark self, anima, and animus were just too delicious. Delving into academic papers about his beliefs and discoveries at such a tender age was probably my first look into a more “academic approach” to spirituality. It relied on comparative mythology and his psychological understandings at the time. Truly, it gave me a real boost in understanding what many of the “Wicca 101 books” glossed over, and really made me start to consider such concepts rather than accept them blindly. To this day, I still wonder about the universal unconscious; various duotheistic approaches to Paganism rely on archetypes; Witchcraft delves into the concept of the shadow self; and most of us, regardless of path, seek a balance between our masculine and feminine energies. Jung’s ideas, while seldom utilized by most contemporary psychologists, have remained very influential in literary circles as well as our own religious community. With that interest, I waited for the film’s release!
A few weeks ago, I learned that a small group of individuals had petitions our local theater to show “A Dangerous Method.” You see, Mortensen graduated from Watertown’s high school and attended St. Lawrence University in the Canton-Potsdam area. Despite that, many of his films aren’t shown here! I was delighted that “A Dangerous Method” made it to our theater, albeit on a very limited release. I fear it was not advertised very well outside of the above article and one movie poster near the theater entrance. Weretoad and I were the only people in the theater at the latest showing! I do hope it attracts larger crowds.
Unfortunately, when competing with an action film like “The Grey,” “Method” will prove uneventful to the average audience. Directed by David Cronenberg and written by Christopher Hampton and John Kerr, this film depicts the tumultuous relationship between Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Freud (Viggo Mortensen), as well as Jung and his patient Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). It is very dialog-driven. I found myself wondering if I would appreciate it as much if I hadn’t taken a couple psychology classes in college and read so much about Jung. It almost feels like a niche movie – a story for true and wannabe intellectuals (I’m probably more of the latter). There are some interesting exchanges between the characters. The tension between Freud and Jung, as the protege shows an interest in the mystical (telepathy for example), is rather intriguing. Sabina occasionally discusses occult topics – the directions her “angel” has given her, for example. There are regular exchanges of dreams and attempts to interpret them. Jung comes to disagree with Freud’s insistence that everything is sexually-driven. He seeks more spiritual explanations and believes religion cannot be fully divorced from science when healing patients. To paraphrase, Freud says he doesn’t care if a patient worships one God, or others like Aphrodite – but he wants to leave that out of his clinical work. An interesting thing to say when his office is littered with Pagan statues. 50 points if you spot the Venus of Willendorf!
Vincent Cassel, who plays Otto Gross, truly stole the show in my opinion. His exchanges with Jung were the most fascinating, particularly because of his character’s quirks and how he interacted with objects on the set. I’ve never seen Cassel do poorly in a film and I was delighted and surprised to see him in this story.
I can see “A Dangerous Method” doing well in theaters that cater to such audiences – Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute in my old hometown will likely show it to a large crowd in it’s usual two showings. No doubt it will do well in denser, more urban cities. All the same, I’m so glad it reached Northern NY and that I could see it. It is a depressing but intellectually satisfying story. It is worth seeing if you are interested in Jung, psychology, or just enjoy a good costume drama.