October 30, 2011

A Dangerous Method (UK 2011)

"A Dangerous Method" has been called David Cronenberg's most conventional film so far. And indeed, elegant settings, lush cinematography, meticulously designed period costumes and an all-star cast are not what you usually expect from the director of such idiosyncratic films as "Videodrome", "Naked Lunch" and "Crash". But even if it lacks his signature morbid style, "A Dangerous Method" is still very much a Cronenberg film. Only this time, his flair for dark obsessions are firmly hidden beneath a polished surface. However, it does not take long for them to come out in his adaptation of the true story about the relationships between psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung and their patient, the young Sabina Spielrein who would later herself become one of the first female psychoanalysts.

But nevertheless something is lacking in a film that tries too hard to be perfect - or please the Academy Award voters. It may sound implausible but the Oscar may indeed have been in the mind of both David Cronenberg (who never won one) and producer Jeremy Thomas (whose win for "The Last Emperor" lies back 23 years). Even the trailer for the film looks trimmed for it. And while "A Dangerous Method" is a well-made, intelligent film it never really elevates beyond quality entertainment. Despite all the nice period details, it also never feels truly authentic. Partly this is due to the casting where the major flaw of the film is to be found in the person of Keira Knightley. Starting with her fake Russian accent and her whole appearance, she feels wrong for the role. Especially in the beginning, her interpretation of the character's hysteria is anything but subtle. What's even more problematic is the fact that she should evolve as the strong independent woman by the end of the film who stands up against the two dominant male figures. But comparing her performance to the ones of such fine actors as Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen, it is inevitable that she comes off as the weak link.

"A Dangerous Method" is still a welcome rarity in the territory of mainstream cinema in the sense that it does challenge the audience intellectually. Its tension derives from words, not action. But the words here are not enough to make the film great. As a matter of fact, for a film based on a stage play called "The Talking Cure" about two of the most important psychoanalysts, "A Dangerous Method" has surprisingly little to say...



Coffee and cigars

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