I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Saturday, 25 February 2012

A Dangerous Method

A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them. CARL GUSTAV JUNG

With my new interest in psychotherapy,  you can imagine how keen I was to catch up on David Cronenberg's latest film, A Dangerous Method. I saw it last Thursday at Nottingham's excellent, independent Broadway cinema. It's not a great film, but a very good one nonetheless.

It's about the relationship between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Gustav Jung (Michael Fassbender), their friendship and subsequent falling-out. As Freud's star fades, the ambitious Jung is more than ready to carry the torch. The foci of Jung's interests are much wider than Freud's, going beyond Freud's purely sex-oriented obsessions into the realms of telepathy and the paranormal. This 'unscientific' approach irritates Freud, and is a major factor in their split. The love interest in the film centres on Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), a highly intelligent but disturbed patient of Jung's. She responds well to Jung's pioneering 'talking cure', so well that he invites her to be his clinical assistant. Despite Jung's initial feelings of guilt — he has a wife and family — they become lovers. Their sexual relationship is based on sadomasochism (Spielrein associates flagellation with sexual arousal, after being regularly spanked as a child by her father). When their affair comes to an end, Spielrein turns her attention to Freud, provoking Jung's jealousy.

I do recommend going to see this film. It's beautiful to look at, full of intelligently scripted conversation, and wickedly subversive. Also it's interesting to witness the early days of psychoanalysis, a time when researchers in this field were very much misunderstood and derided by the medical profession and by society in general.     

12 comments:

Susan Scheid said...

I want to second your recommendation, and to endorse your description that, among other things, it is, "full of intelligently scripted conversation, and wickedly subversive." It was wonderful to see a film with such substance, and about the early days of psychoanalysis, to boot.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Didn't know you had an interest in psychotherapy Robert. Several of my friends have trained in this quite late in life and have really enjoyed the training. I think they are finding it quite hard to get a footing in the profession but the process of getting to the qualification has been most interesting.

The Solitary Walker said...

Glad you enjoyed it too, Susan. As you say, it was refreshing to see a film of substance and ideas. And put across in such an unpretentious way, conventional even. Which made the little subversions all the more telling and effective.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes — I'm doing an Introduction to Counselling Skills course at the moment, Pat, and finding it quite fascinating.

Goat said...

Sounds like Ms Spielrein got up to a bit of couch surfing!

Looks interesting. I like Viggo Mortensen. Some trivia: he was once married to Exene Cervenka, singer of one of my favourite American punk bands, X.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for that witty micro-analysis, Goat!

Alive said...

Much awarnes is to be gained through outside walking, you travel within, i guess you already know this. So you are on the right path in doing so. Having been a therapist myself for many years, my delevepment has travelled many such pathways. Glad to hear that you have begun this journey. Seek and you will find, behond the scientific, that Freud was wholly against, is where i like to wander, into the mystical realms. May you discover hidden treasures on your way in restoring harmony for others. You may also like this new publication; http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780241143810,00.html?strSrchSql=robert+macfarlane%2A/The_Old_Ways_Robert_Macfarlane

Alive said...

Finding What You Didn’t Lose
by John Fox


When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you’ve had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.
When someone deeply listens to you,
the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote
your first poem
begins to glow in your mind’s eye.
It is as if gold has been discovered!
When someone deeply listens to you,
your bare feet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, Alive, for this. So, you are a therapist yourself! I'm a big admirer of Robert Macfarlane, and am looking forward to reading his new book. I also look forward to continuing to explore 'the mystical realms' and finding those 'hidden treasures'. Love that empathic poem.

Laurel said...

Agree. Saw this last week. Not great but definitely worthwhile. It was a film club movie. Our tiny local cinema brings in about 12 decent movies a year for the film club. It seemed to be a bit more than some of the mostly elderly and very conservative crowd had bargained for!

Grace said...

I watched this the other night. It was ok as far as Cronenberg films go. Put it this way, in high school when I told people I wanted to work in the Canadian film business, David Cronenberg (the Canadian director) is the reason why people sometimes responded with "So you want to make porn?" But this movie is one of his more "tasteful" films.

Grace said...

I should say, Cronenberg is one of the reasons some people think Canadian films are weird and dirty--he's not the only one--probably "Exotica" did the most damage:)