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A Dangerous Method (2011)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 3/27/2012

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/28/2012

In today's home entertainment market, there is a world of choices. So, what makes us choose which movies we watch (assuming that we are the chooser)? Is it the actors? Is it the director? Is it something in the advertisements which caught our eye? In most cases, I would have to assume that there is something in the movie which we found interesting, in the sense that it is connected to our personal interests. As someone who has studied psychology and counseling, A Dangerous Method sounded interesting due to the fact that it dealt with two of the fathers of modern psychology. Would this be enough to carry the movie?

A Dangerous Method opens in Switzerland, where Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) is working at a psychiatric hospital. A patient named Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) is admitted due to her hysterical behavior. Rather than use the traditional treatments of the days, June decided to try the "talking cure" with this patient, where he asks her about her problems. He soon discovers that Sabina had a relationship with her father which bordered on sexual. Despite the fact that Jung is married, he and Sabina become lovers. Meanwhile, Jung has been reading about and corresponding with Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), the renowned Austrian psychologist. The two meet in Vienna and begin to compare theories. Even after Jung returns to Switzerland, he and Freud remain in touch, but as the years go by, their ideas begin to diverge. Jung continues to see Sabina and mentors her when she decides to become a doctor herself.

The other reason that I wanted to see A Dangerous Method was that it's from Director David Cronenberg, who's early work I admire. However, I haven't liked his movies since 1999's eXistenZ and A Dangerous Method doesn't improve on that. Even if I hadn't known that this was a Cronenberg film, that revelation wouldn't have been a huge surprise. True, the story content doesn't match what we're used to seeing from the man, but the overall feel of the movie does. Cronenberg is known for making films which have a cold, almost clinical feel. When he was making horror movies, this approach worked quite well because it made even the most fantastic things seem believable and it made the violence more shocking. Here, it takes what should be engaging and emotional material and sucks the life out of it, so that we are merely watching the characters in action, but feeling nothing.

But, all of the blame can't be laid on Cronenberg, as the script doesn't give him very much to work with, which is odd, as the story is based on the lives of two fascinating men. But, the movie takes a very odd approach to telling its story. Ostensibly this is the story of Carl Jung's life, with appearances of Freud sprinkled in to show how the two men influenced one another. However, it is surprisingly devoid of details. We learn very little about Jung's life and we rarely know what he's thinking. For example, the movie jumps through time showing how his wife gives birth to daughters, disappointed that she hasn't had a son. Was Jung disappointed by this as well? Nothing in the dialogue or Fassbender's performance tells us. We watch Jung have his affair with Sabina and do his work, but nothing comes of it. We don't really learn about Jung and Freud's work either. Again, I've studied them on numerous occasions and know their theories, which are mentioned in the film. But, it's done so in a way that if you didn't know what to listen for, it wouldn't mean anything to you.

The most baffling thing about A Dangerous Method is that there's no conflict. The story moves along through time showing how Jung and Freud's live progress, but the movie doesn't have a typical narrative flow. Jung struggles somewhat with his relationship with Freud and with Sabina, but there's never any sense of tension. We don't care if any of these people get along or not. When the ending comes, everything is tied up nicely, but it feels artificial.

I'm not sure what I was expecting from A Dangerous Method, but it certainly wasn't this film. Jung and Freud not only changed psychology by challenging the way in which treatment was done, but they also thumbed their noses at convention by openly exploring sexuality and relationships. This was explosive at the time and Freud's ideas are still hot topics today. And yet, the movie is so blasé about everything. It wants to be shocking at times, but the whole thing is so passive that it simply lies there. This movie should have been all id, but it just gets a bruised ego.

A Dangerous Method would certainly raise eyebrows with a modern ethics board on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The image is never overly dark or bright and the colors look very good. The daytime scenes have a nice crispness to them. When compared to Blu-ray Disc, the level of detail is somewhat lacking and the image is soft at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Overall, this is a somewhat quiet film, but we do get some notable stereo and surround effects during street and countryside scenes. The dialogue is always clear and audile and Howard Shore’s score sounds fine.

The A Dangerous Method DVD contains only a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director David Cronenberg. "The Making of A Dangerous Method" (8 minutes) contains comments from Fassbender, Mortensen, Knightley, Vincent Cassel, and Cronenberg who talk about the characters and the story. There is also a look at the costumes and the look of the film and the film's score. "AFI's Harold Lloyd Master Seminar with David Cronenberg" (31 minutes) is a interview/Q&A with Cronenberg, moderated by James Hosney. He talks about the making of A Dangerous Method, giving in-depth details about the story and the actors. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long