I rented A Dangerous Method from Redbox and watched it for the first time last night, and I must say, I was blown away. The film is astounding. Since the plot line surrounds Freud, Jung, and Spielein, whose work deals in sexual psychology, I thought I’d write a review of it here. So, this will be my first feature film review! I didn’t write it while watching, as I did for A Guide to Your Orgasm, so it may be a little different, since it’s coming from my memory, not from my current experience. Oh well.
Psychoanalysis and its Freudian basis in sexuality has long been a part of Western culture at large, not just the psychiatric world. In the film A Dangerous Method, we begin to see how and why the ideas became so popular.
In what is arguably the most dynamic performance of her career, Kiera Knightley plays Sabina Spierlein – an hysterical patient brought to Switzerland to Dr. Carl Jung (played by Michael Fassbender) who has suffered a horribly abusive childhood. Throughout her treatment, The Talking Method, originated by Dr. Sigmund Freud (played by Viggo Mortensen), it comes out that she got pleasure from the abuse, and eventually began to crave it. Humiliation would give her sexual arousal, and she would have to masturbate.
Over time, as the patient becomes cured, the relationship between Spierlein and Jung turns sexual, itself. He takes her as his mistress, (following the advice of fellow psychologist and then patient, Otto Gross [played by Vincent Cassel]) as well as his assistant, offering her the simultaneous humiliation and sexual gratification she craves, as well as the experience in psychological analysis to enter university and study the field, to become a doctor herself.
In the midst of the journey from patient-doctor to lovers, another relationship also develops – that of colleagues and friends between Jung and Freud. Though the friendship is tumultuous, and eventually ends rather dramatically, Spierlein is able to maintain professional communication with Freud, which gives her the benefit of contact with both doctors.
Though the personal relationships dissolve, professional communication remains. Despite an emotional disconnect for quite some time, once Spierlein reaches the point in her education for her dissertation, she petitions Jung to be her advisor. Interested in her work, as it argues the exact opposite of Freud’s sexual theory, Jung agrees, which allows their relationship to quickly turn sexual once again.
Once her work is published, Jung ends the relationship and the two reluctantly part ways, only meeting again years later, when Spierlein has married and become pregnant, prior to moving back to her home country of Russia. This news breaks Jung’s heart, and the two have an emotionally charged conversation, however brief, regarding their previous affair.
Though perhaps not intended as a love story, A Dangerous Method not only highlights the rise of psychoanalysis and analytical psychology, but also displays historical relationships as distinctly human. We, as viewers, relate to the characters and relationships, and applaud the ability of those whose names we know so well to not only analyze themselves, but also one another, in order to shed light upon the human psyche.
Whatever your opinion of Freudian and Jungian psychology, and whatever your knowledge of Sabina Spierlein – the first woman psychoanalyst, the film is fascinating and gives us a peek into the doorway of why sexuality has become such a taboo subject in our society.