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A Dangerous Method

February 24, 2012 by staff 

A Dangerous Method, David Cronenberg has long made a name for himself as king of the so-called ‘body horror movie’, as a director who pushes the boundaries of physicality to their limits, showcasing the bizarre and the malformed in thought-provoking (if a bit silly) dramas like The Fly(1986) and Shivers (1975).

Having just sat through his latest film, A Dangerous Method, I’m left with a rising suspicion that he’s lost the plot a bit, or at least suffered a temporary lapse of inspiration. For a film about sex, directed by a body horror expert, A Dangerous Method is surprisingly un-sensual and un-stimulating. Amongst clinical sex scenes and horrific over-acting, the closest the film comes to physicality is Keira Knightley’s painfully overdone gurning throughout, reminiscent of a certain scene in An American Werewolf in London.

Indeed, it is quite difficult to find anything worth praising in a film so badly written, badly acted, and badly executed all over. It seems harsh, but with such a potentially captivating plot and commendable names such as Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen, the result is lamentable.

The basic premise is endearing, as Cronenberg explores attitudes towards sexuality and the male/female paradigm in the early 1900′s, through the eyes of esteemed doctor Carl Jung (Fassbender), his mentor Sigmund Freud (Mortensen) and their shared patient Sabina Spielrein (Knightley.) The film is based on a play by Christopher Hampton, The Talking Cure, which was in turn inspired by the true lives of these influential figures.

Such a shame, then, that the end result is so uninteresting. About halfway through the film I had a sudden realisation that perhaps it is meant to be funny: as indeed I concluded it is. The acting throughout is so poor that this seems the only excuse: Knightley’s nymphomaniac representation of Sabina is embarrassingly OTT, and the innuendo is far from subtle. When Jung finally gives in to his sexual urges, Sabina dramatically flings open the door, exclaiming “Come inside!” It was at this point that the undercurrent of tongue-in-cheek ‘comedy’ seemed evident.

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