A DANGEROUS METHOD directed by David Cronenberg (Canada, 2011)

"Trust me, I'm a doctor!"

‘Restrained’ and ‘tasteful’ are not adjectives I want to see associated with David Cronenberg.

It’s as incongruous as describing a Terry Gilliam as understated and temperate or David Lynch as cosy and reassuring.

For a film that deals with sexual behaviour and personal liberty you’d expect A Dangerous Method to stir up some healthy controversy. Yet, the normally provocative director seems intent on maintaining an uncharacteristic (and unwelcome) level of respectability.This means that Viggo Mortensen, who plays Sigmund Freud, is not being ironic when he calls it Cronenberg’s Merchant-Ivory film.

I get that it is a movie about ideas but it desperately needs spicing up. The sex scenes are very tame – the participants keep their clothes on and when Carl Jung spanks Sabine Spielrein at her behest it looks more like stern chastisement than raunchy foreplay.

It doesn’t help that Keira Knightley is hopelessly miscast in the role as Sabine – a Russian patient. If you asked an actress in an amateur theatre company to play a mad woman you’d expect the same exaggerated nervous tics and jabbering she treats us to. The jutting chin and frenzied movements are beyond parody and make her transformation into a respected physician all the harder to believe.

When he’s not spanking Sabine, Michael Fassbinder as Jung is a model of calm precision and self discipline. When asked why he seems so resolved to resist the temptations of the flesh he delivers the best line in the move: “law students are not expected to rob banks”.

His conversations with Freud are nicely played and even better is his encounter with unrepentant libertine Otto Gross (Vincent Cassell).

What, ultimately, did I learn from this movie apart from the sad fact that Cronenberg is mellowing with age?

It shows us that Freud thought Jung was too into mysticism and that Jung doubted Freud’s assertion that every symptom could be interpreted in sexual terms.

It confirms that the pleasure of sex is rarely simple as, more often than not , it is connected with sin, transgression, guilt, self doubt, feelings of inadequacy, jealousy and confusion.

if nothing else, it shows that psychotherapists are never likely to be out of work.

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