- A Dangerous Method shows off David Cronenberg’s genre range–sharply pivoting from the Russian mob crime film Eastern Promises and diving instead into early 20th century Vienna and the world of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud (played superbly by Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen respectively).
- This marks the third pairing of auteur and actor with Cronenberg and Viggo. Again, it is as if Viggo took at that goodwill and clout he earned from the financial (and surely artistic) success of The Lord of the Rings and decided to put it to good use working with one of the greatest directors of the last few decades.
- Howard Shore (LOTR, Se7en, The Silence of the Lambs) is here again working with Cronenberg as he almost always does. This is his thirteen (13th) time working with Cronenberg I believe.
- A Dangerous Method was shot in Austria.
- First and foremost, it is one of the greatest uses of depth of field in recent cinema history. Or at least the first half of the film is. Cronenberg uses the split diopter here as well (and as often) as anyone not named Brian De Palma. The split diopter is uses at least five times with Fassbender in the foreground (left) while his wife is taking a test in the background right. There is another with Keira Knightley (playing a crucial role in the film as Sabina Spielrein) shortly after and yet another with the wet nurse after that. In analysis, Knightley is in the foreground right—and Fassbender in the background left.
- Fassbender plays intelligence well. His Jung is buttoned up, idealistic (if not a little naïve). This was during a marvelous run for Fassbender going from Hunger in 2008 (his coming out party) to 12 Years a Slave in 2013. This run includes Inglourious Basterds (2009), his greatest work to date- Shame (2011) and Cronenberg’s film here of course. In six years, Fassbender is in ten (10) archiveable films.
- Viggo shows up at the 22-minute mark (in a 99-minute mark) and is commanding in his screen presence. He is also convincingly in portraying genius (though his Freud (older than Jung) is not naïve- perhaps a bit paranoid). Viggo is a truly versatile actor.
- Unfortunately, the crucial role of Spielrein is just too much to ask for Knightley. One must admire Knightley for challenging herself and her choice of material– but with the accent and twitches—this is a juicy role (and a lot to ask of any actor)- and the ask is just too much for her. Naomi Watts is just a little too old in 2011 (Knightley is 26… Watts is 43). Marion Cotillard might be slightly better (still a little on the older side at 36). Carey Mulligan feels like the perfect choice (age 26 as well) though this would pair her again with Fassbender in 2011 (Shame). Either way, I would have liked to have seen it.
- At the 25-minute mark there is another split diopter with Viggo in the foreground right of the screen in profile with his cigar. Yet another later with Fassbender standing in Freud’s (Viggo) office during their 13-hour conversation.
- Regrettably, the split diopters largely stop after the first half of the film- this is not only a shame as pertains to the beauty of the film—but its front-loadedness also gives it a bit of formal imbalance.
- The film also could use with a bit more breathing room-it is 99-minute but needs at least 119 if not even 129 or 139. The trip to America seems like it was just virtually cut out altogether—there are relationships (complex, really great deep relationships built in the film) that feel truncated at the end and the venomous letter to Freud right after he collapses is never fully explored.
- Highly Recommend/ Must See border
@Drake-Who is the best Sigmund Freud? Montgomery Clift or Viggo?
@Malith- I’d put their achievement on the same plane
Oh I remember watching this film some years ago on cable and didn’t even understand it was Cronenberg. I should have known though, because there is a lot of risqué content in the film (for period drama standards) and all those split dioptres.. wow. Only now do I realise how many of them there were. Overall it is a very interesting and decent film, though it somehow leaves something to be desired. As if there was unexplored potential.
Amazing film! I saw it for the first time after reading this review. Sublime compositions throughout and as @Georg says hard to guess that’s it’s Cronenberg.
@Drake- how about Natalie Portman. I think she could have slayed knightley’s part. She’d be my pick.
Crazy (or perhaps not so surprising) that MASH also came up with Natalie Portman possibly as Spielrein cause I came to the same conclusion after seeing Knightley’s shots (it’s no coincidence that George Lucas cast her as Portman’s body double in The Phantom Menace). Say a better actress like her or Carey Mulligan (also a great suggestion) plays that role and the second half of the film is as cinematically audacious as the first, and the total length is about 2 hours 15 minutes or so. Is this a masterpiece?
And how do you think this plays out differently with Christoph Waltz (who was originally cast) as Freud instead of Mortensen, not that I’m saying he should be recast?
@Zane- tough to say what could have been exactly- but I would have love to seen those changes. I think Waltz is a great actor- but I would not be eager to recast this one with how well Viggo handles himself.
[…] A Dangerous Method – Cronenberg […]
@Drake – on the Cronenberg page this is listed as a R. Am I correct in assuming the grade on this page is the more recent grade?
@James Trapp- That’s correct. This page is from late 2021- the Cronenberg page is from 2019
@Drake – thanks, thats what I figured, looking forward to checking it out
@James Trapp- Good work – I am confident you will be impressed.