A Dangerous Method

A Dangerous Method

Directed by: David Cronenberg
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortesen, Vincent Cassel
Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins
Rating: R
Release Date: December 16, 2011

PLOT: The story behind the beginnings of psychoanalysis, as conceived by Sigmund Freud (Mortensen) and his intellectual competitor Carl Jung (Fassbender) who has an affair with one of his patients (Knightley).

WHO’S IT FOR? Coming into A Dangerous Method with some knowledge of Freud, Jung, or psychoanalysis can only be beneficiary. Outsiders might be able to keep up, but it’s not certain they will be entirely interested throughout. The knowledge I picked up from a single college course on Freud was of some personal help.


Consider this the alternative sit-down drama to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. A Dangerous Method is an intellectual’s vacation; a movie constructed entirely out of conversations in which characters speak openly about their feelings, their inclinations, and their dreams. It used to be a play, and now it is a unique, quaint film from director David Cronenberg, who takes a more direct route into exploring the much more complicated and disturbed parts of the psyche.

A Dangerous Method is a film of three performances, each of which seems to cover a certain type of acting style. For one, there is Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Jung, which is calculated, proper, and with a few bits of vulnerability. Fassbender is believable as Jung, but isn’t able to shake off his own presence whilst stepping in the man’s shoes.

This is of course the opposite to Viggo Mortensen’s portrayal of Sigmund Freud, who disappears into this impersonation with the same immediacy of Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn. In fact, he looks so much like Freud, and appears so differently than we have seen him before, that it’s almost possible to take this acting job for granted; Mortensen is so subtle in this movie, but yet so accomplished with a portrayal that allows Freud to come back to life without having to force a single thing.

And then, there is Keira Knightley’s performance, which I admire for its complete ruthlessness. As the disturbed patient of Jung, one who opens up Fassbender’s character to discussions of monogamy and sexual psychology, Knightely just goes for it. This is a screaming banshee performance, one in which the actress goes into high octane freak outs. She shakes, she stutters, she screams, she takes her character beyond the criticism of “over-acting,” and leaves it in its own wild, ballsy territory.

As for the story itself, A Dangerous Method succeeds in letting its small story unravel itself into something big. It’s more of an accomplishment visually than it is with its storytelling, despite the hard-working players involved. The film will challenge you either with its ideas, or its pacing.



  1. Piotr says:

    Knightly’s performance was superb, Fassbender was good too. Mortensen, in my view, was not the best choice for playing Freud but it didn’t spoil the whole experience for me. I hope this film will shake up the psychoanalytic community a little bit.

  2. Alex Pitts says:

    I think Knightley got lost in the territory of “over-acting” and hasn’t found her way back. I only ever suspected that until seeing this movie, which felt like a confirmation. And really, what an awful Russian accent!

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