A Dangerous Method (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

March 17, 2012 by  

Featuring beautiful cinematography and music, and a wonderful performance by its talent.  “A Dangerous Method” does make for intriguing cinema, but I do hope that viewers know to discern that this is not a film based on fact, but a fictional tale based on the lives of Sabina Spielrein and Carl Jung.

Images courtesy of © 2011 RPC Danger Limited, Lago Film GmbH and Talking Cure Productions Limited. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: A Dangerous Method

DURATION: 99 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 1:85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: R (For Language)

RELEASE DATE: March 27, 2012

Directed by David Cronenberg

Based on the book “A Most Dangerous Method” by John Kerr

Based on the Play “The Talking Cure” by Christopher Hampton

Screenplay by Christopher Hampton

Executive Producer: Karl Spoerri, Thomas Sterchi, Peter Watson, Matthias Zimmerman

Produced by Jeremy Thomas

Co-Producer: Martin Katz, Marco Mehlitz

Associate Producer: Tiana Alexandra, Richard Mansell

Music by Howard Shore

Cinematography by Peter Suschitzku

Edited by Ronald Sanders

Casting by Deirdre Bowen

Production Design by James McAteer

Art Direction by Anja From, Nina Hirscherg, Frances Soeder, Sebastian Soukup

Set Decoration by Gernot Thondel

Costume Design by Denise Cronenberg


Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein

Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud

Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung

Vincent Cassel as Otto Gross

Sarah Gadon as Emma Jung

Andre Hennicke as Professor Eugen Bleuler

Arndt Schwering-Sohrney as Sandor Ferenczi

From acclaimed director David Cronenberg (A History of Violence) comes a dark tale of sexual and intellectual discovery, featuring two of the greatest minds of the 20th century. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender, Shame) has just begun his psychiatric career, having been inspired by the great Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen, The Lord of the Rings trilogy). When a mysterious and beautiful woman (Keira Knightley, Atonement) goes under Jung’s care, Jung finds himself crossing the line of the doctor/patient relationship, causing great conflict with his mentor and making Jung question his own morality in the process.

From filmmaker David Cronenberg  (“The Fly”, “Eastern Promises”, “A History of Violence”) comes his latest film “A Dangerous Method” based on the 1993 non-fiction book by John Kerr and a screenplay by Christopher Hampton, who wrote the original 2002 play “The Talking Cure” which was based on the book.

The film has been in development for nearly a decade.  The film adaptation was to feature Julia Roberts but as time went on, Chris Hampton’s play would be the first to be done but as time had passed and scheduling conflicts came in the way, by 2010, a film would be made and would star Viggo Mortensen (“The Lord of the Rings” films, “The Road”, “A History of Violence”), Michael Fassbender (“Inglorious Basterds”, “300”, “X-Men: First Class”), Keira Knightley (“Pirates of the Caribbean” films, “Pride & Prejudice”) and Vincent Cassel (“Black Swan”, “Shrek”, “La Haine”).

And now, “A Dangerous Mind” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in March 2012 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“A Dangerous Method” is a fictional film that is set in the early 1900’s and would begin with a hysteric Sabina Spielrein (played by Keira Knightley) being admitted to Burgholzli mental hospital near Zurich.  A mental hospital where psychiatrist Carl Jung is working (played by Michael Fassbender).

While treating Sabina, Jung wants to try a method known as “The Talking Cure” invented by his mentor Sigmund Freud (played by Viggo Mortensen).

As Jung would send his letters to Freud on how the method is working, Jung learns from Sabina that she has always wanted to become a doctor but feels she would never have a chance.  But because assistants are short at the hospital, Jung gives Sabina a chance to become his assistant but also as a way for him to treat her.

At first, while treating Sabina, he was thinking that perhaps she may have been molested but during treatment, he learns that Sabina, was kept unaware of her sexuality and each time she was spanked by her father on her bare behind, she would not hate it but be excited, so Sabina would think that she was demonized because of the sexual feelings that she had whenever she felt humiliated when in fact she was feeling sadist emotions, sexual gratification through physical pain and humiliation.

Meanwhile, as a favor to Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung is asked to treat Austrian psychoanalyst Otto Gross (played by Vincent Cassell), the son of famous criminologist Hans Gross.

For Gross, he was very big on anti-psychiatry and also sexual liberation.  Through his treatment with Carl Jung, Gross actually turns the table by trying to get Jung interested in having sexual relationships with his patients.  It would be a breach of professional ethics but yet, it’s something that Gross is not interested in and tries to get Carl Jung to consider it.

Sabina had gotten better and would pursue her dream of becoming a psychoanalyst and eventually becoming one.  She continued to have a sexual relationship with Carl Jung, but meanwhile Sigmund Freud knows there is something going on between the two.

As Sigmund Freud hoped that Carl Jung would collaborate with him and help validate and spread his ideas, unfortunately Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud would have a divergence in psychoanalytic theories (both had differing concepts of the unconscious).

But because his affair with Sabina continued, keeping it a secret had become problematic for Jung and thus he has to end the relationship immediately.

But what will happen to Carl Jung once he ends his relationship with Sabina and with a woman scorned, how will she get her revenge back at him?


“A Dangerous Method” is presented in 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen and audio in English 5.1 Dolby Digital. Before I continue, it’s important to note that this film will be released on Blu-ray, so if you want the best picture and audio quality, I recommend watching it on HD.

With that being said, “A Dangerous Method” is a film that utilizes a lot of outdoor scenes and locations.  So, there are time that we see vibrant colors and overall lighting was good and while watching the film, I admit that in my mind, I was thinking how awesome a lot of these scenes would look in HD.  And along with the wonderful location shots and cinematography, the film features beautiful costume design and also set design as well.  As for the picture quality of DVD, overall picture quality is good but once again, if you want the detail and clarity, go for the Blu-ray version.

As for audio, dialogue is clear and there are moments where ambiance such as Sabina being taken to the mental hospital, you can hear the sounds of her kicking things around inside the carriage through the surround channels.  But the film is primarily a center and front-channel driven film.

The music from Howard Shore is quite impressive and Richard Wagner’s “Sigfried Idyll” performed by Lang Lang and arranged by Howard Shore is absolutely beautiful.  One again, this is a beautiful soundtrack that would probably sound much better via lossless on Blu-ray but on DVD, overall dialogue and audio is clear with no problems that I can see or hear.


“A Dangerous Method” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Director David Cronenberg – Featuring an in-depth audio commentary from Director David Cronenberg.
  • The Making of A Dangerous Method – (7:41) Director David Cronenberg and the cast talk about working on the film.
  • AFI’s Harold Lloyd Master Seminar with David Cronenberg – (31:21) AFI interviews director David Cronenberg about how he came to direct “A Dangerous Method”, how the film came to be and the making of the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:56) The theatrical trailer for “A Dangerous Method”.

“A Dangerous Method” is an intriguing form of fiction based on the lives of Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein.

For anyone who has studied psychiatry or are familiar with the people featured in the film, reading into the lives of Carl Jung and Sabina Spielrein seems like an emotional and intellectual drama.   And it doesn’t surprise me that a film was made on them.

For Carl Jung, so far it has been a few who have asserted that Jung and Spielrein have had a sexual relationship.  Afterall, it is known that Carl Jung had a long-time affair with Toni Wolff, a Swiss analyst who was also a patient of Carl Jung and had a relationship with his wife and Wolff simultaneously.  While with Sabina Spielrein, there have been books since 1980 written about the relationship between Jung and Spielrein from 1904-1910 and that he did constitute an ethical breach of doctor-patient boundary while treating Spielrein.

In 1994, letters and diaries were found in the Claparede archive in Geneva and these letters show that their relationship was non-sexual but more of a therapeutic nature.

Needless to say, no one will ever know the truth if these two individuals did have a sexual relationship but we do know that Carl Jung did have an impact in the life of Sabina Spielrein.  We do know that Carl Jung contacted Sigmund Freud for advice in treating Sabina and that moment of time, both Jung and Freud became intellectual confidants.

As for the rift that drove them apart, we know that Sabina had nothing to do with it, but it was two men with two different theories and both men being well-known in their field and doing all they can to have supporters of their ideas, the clash between both men were inevitable.

So, while watching “A Dangerous Method”, I did find Christopher Hampton’s screenplay based on John Kerr’s novel to be an intriguing take on this long-rumored interaction but also what caused the rift between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud.

The more you research Carl Jung, especially with the release of “The Red Book” in 2009 (a manuscript that he written right after his falling out with Jeung and was forbidden for public viewing by his family until a family heir decided to publish it a few years ago) which you realize that Jung was man who had dreams, an active imagination one would say and these were further explored in his book.

And as for his relationships with his patients, while Tony Wolff was known to be his mistress, Sabina to be rumored as a woman he had an affair with for years, I did find it quite intriguing of how the storyline incorporated Otto Gross, who was a disciple of Sigmund Freud but treated by Carl Jung and is known as the founding grandfather of 20th Century Counterculture.  A free spirited manic depressive who was an extrovert addicted to sex.  Was it Otto Gross that helped lead Jung astray?  I found that intriguing.

I’m not a Freud or Jung erudite, but I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the performances by Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley are fantastic.  How exact it is to their original counterparts, I don’t know.  But Keira Knightley did a wonderful job in portraying a hysterical woman.  It’s a performance that I have never seen by Knightley and in fact, whenever she did go into hysterics, I was freaked out a little as she would do this elongating of her jaw.  Needless to say, it was visually affective in portraying the character.

Mortensen’s Sigmund Freud was rather well-done.  Very stoic and serious, while Fassbender’s performance of Carl Jung was very good, but it made me wonder if an intellectual like Jung was also a suave ladies man?  I felt that maybe he looked too cool, but then again, maybe Carl Jung was a classy, cool, suave intellectual.

The cinematography by Peter Suschitzky (“Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back”, “Eastern Promises”, “A History of Violence”) was absolutely beautiful and vibrant and it helps to have a talented crew providing wonderful costume and set design as well. Also, I give credit to Howard Shore for providing beautiful, emotional, chaotic music to support what we see onscreen.

As for the DVD, fans of David Cronenberg will enjoy his AFI interview but also his audio commentary which he really delves into the characters and his interested in doing a film about Freud.

But as I did enjoy the performances, the cinematography and music, I do have a problem with the film’s storyline overall.

Once again, this film is fiction based on assertions that Sabina Spielrein and Carl Jung had a sexual relationship.  But if letters were found to show that it was factual, I wouldn’t be surprised because we know that Jung had an affair and a relationship with Tony Wolff, a former patient of his and a future analyst.

But I enjoyed the film for giving attention to Sabina Speilrein, as she was the first person to introduce the idea of death instincts (best known for her published work “Destruction as the Cause of Coming into Being”), a concept that Sigmund Freud would incorporate into his own theory.  She was also known to introduce psychoanalysis to Russia and was an inspiration to future psychoanalysts, including Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget.

Always known as a footnote in Sigmund Freud’s book and considered as a “forgotten pioneer of psychoanalysis”, unfortunately Sabina Speilrein’s life in reality was cut short and her two children were killed by a German SS Death Squad.  But her contributions as a psychoanalysis should have been shown.  This woman’s work have been forgotten and now that she has been brought back to the masses, she is not seen for her accomplishments but her sadistic needs.

It is known that Spielrein had wrote about masochism and the sadistic component of sexual drive as a “destructive drive” but does it mean she was a woman who loved to be spanked by Carl Jung?  Those scenes I found a bit worrisome as people will see her more as Carl Jung’s sexual exploit rather than her contributions as a psychoanalyst.

Overall, “A Dangerous Method” is an exploitative, sensational and intriguing take on Carl-Gustav Jung and Sabina Spielrein, and Jung’s his split with his intellectual confidant Sigmund Freud, but I do admit that I found the treatment of Sabina Speilrein’s life to be troubling and misleading. It’s bad enough that her career as a psychoanalysis was never recognized (possibly because in that era she was a woman in man’s world and not taken seriously by her peers) but to summarize her life as a character that is always craving for attention and wanting to be spanked, I found it the most unfortunate.  And like Freud’s footnote to credit her career, Cronenberg also ends with a title of Spielrein’s accomplishments and tragic death.

For so long, many have hoped for Speilrein to be known for her work and no longer be “forgotten”.  Unfortunately, “A Dangerous Method” is a film that no only hurts her reputation and paints nothing more but a hysterical love toy but also is a film that is possibly quite damaging to the legacy of Carl Jung.

While “A Dangerous Method” does make for intriguing cinema. I do hope that viewers know to discern that this is not a film based on fact, but a fictional tale.

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