A Dangerous Method

20 Dec

Title: A Dangerous Method
Year: 2011
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: Christopher Hampton, based on his own play, which was based on the book by John Kerr
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Vincent Cassel, Sarah Gordon
MPAA Rating: R, sexual content and brief language
Runtime: 99 min
IMDb Rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Metacritic: 74


I’ve kind of been making a big deal out of just how awesome the end of the year is for seeing films, since studios release their best material around this time in order for it to be fresher in the minds of the people who vote for the awards that will be handed in the coming months. When I give a film an A-, A or A+ it means I believe that film is great, each one of those letter grades obviously representing a different plateau of that greatness. I don’t usually get to watch two great films in a row, though it’s been certainly known to happen. Three in a row, however, is certainly a rarity, but it just happened. I saw The Artist last night (an A+), I saw My Week with Marilyn earlier today (an A) and now I’m seeing A Dangerous Method, David Cronenberg’s latest, which brings my streak of great films watched up to three, something that hadn’t happened in over four months, when between August 11th and August 13th I saw Tabloid, Life in a Day and Captain America: The First Avenger (all three of which I graded an A-). So yeah, I keep mentioning how happy I get when watching great films in a row, but it’s just that I can’t hide my excitement.

Anyways, back to business, which in this case is the great A Dangerous Method, a film done by one of those directors who I say has a lifetime pass from me because he’s already done so many great films, a director that for some illogical reason doesn’t even have an Oscar nomination to his name. A film that reunites him for the third time with Viggo Mortensen, who did get an Oscar nomination for his leading role in the director’s Eastern Promises and already got a Golden Globe nod for this one. And a film that sees him working for the first time with both the supremely talented Keira Knightley, an actress who I love and who does a sensational job in this film; as well as with Michael Fassbender, an actor who’s one of my personal favorites already and is on the verge of becoming a huge superstar, having already appeared in Jane Eyre this year (which I gave an A to), now this one, and I’ll hopefully soon see him in Steve McQueen’s Shame, not to mention I still have to catch up with X-Men: First Class, which I stupidly missed seeing this summer. So yeah, suffice it to say I was really psyched about the company Mr. Cronenberg had assembled around himself for this film.

Then you factor in the story they’re tackling, about the early days of psychoanalysis in which Carl Jung, the character of Mr. Fassbender, starts treating a really unhinged and equally beautiful young woman, the character of Ms. Knightley naturally, and how both he and his mentor, Sigmund Freud, played by Mr. Mortensen, fall under her spell. The result is absolutely sublime if you ask me, there are a ton of ways this story and this film could have gone horribly off the rails, but a director like Mr. Cronenberg keeps all these things in check, and all three of his actors are just seriously impeccable in their performances.

The film has a lot of sexual tension, as Sabrina, the young woman Ms. Knightley plays, wants people to humiliate her, to shame her, to sexually punish her, and in trying to get people to do so she contorts, her hysteria taking over, Mr. Cronenberg taking delight of watching Keira Knightley just go nuts for him, making crazy faces that are just really effective. It’s not as though this is a kind of kinky film though, because Ms. Knightley, a remarkably gorgeous woman if you ask me, somehow manages to hide that all under the craziness, you look at her and you don’t think of sex. And that’s what makes this one really stand out. That’s typical David Cronenberg in a way, his stuff is always kind of strange, kind of grotesque, which is why Sabrina will surely be quite off-putting to some, but to me the performance of Ms. Knightley really sold this film to me, because it’s on her that it relies the most, if she hadn’t done a good job the film would have fallen apart, no matter how good Mr. Mortensen or Mr. Fassbender are.

The film marries the dramatization of historical speculation with actual theories that also help explain the stuff that happens behind the characters lives, relying on dialogue much more than your typical film by Mr. Cronenberg, but the way it does it is just splendidly satisfying. Because that dialogue is what drives this film, it’s a film that gets its provocativeness from just how thoughtful it is, a movie about ideas and the power of them (no, not like Inception), and that in the scenes in which it’s just characters talking about these ideas it gets more amazing and sexy than in the actual sexy scenes. Because these are, even a century after they were first put out there, really provocative ideas, and the fact that there’s a film that manages to touch upon them with a performance like the one by Ms. Knightley, who dares to go to very unlikable places in fierce ways many actresses I’m sure wouldn’t have, is a gift to us.

I realize I haven’t talked that much about the plot. That’s not because it’s not important, because it obviously is, but rather because that’s more for you to discover by yourselves. I’m just really recommending you to go check this one out, it’s a film that’s really stimulating with stunning performances, and from a director that somehow makes this one move with a calm spirit that betrays the ideas and personalities being put in the forefront of the action here. It had to be David Cronenberg the one to give us a film about the discussion of erotic urges that doesn’t feel dated like the era it’s set in would suggest, and it’s also a film, in the relationship between Jung and Freud, that tells a classical mentor-protégé story. And yet, at the same time, it’s quite unlike anything we’ve seen before, thanks to that really charged erotic current flowing beneath every frame, front and center because of the stuff Ms. Knightley does with her role.

Grade: A-


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