Wednesday, 22 February 2012



What's wrong with laughs? Ever since David Cronenberg, the "King of Venereal Horror" forswore the blood and gore of films like The Fly, Scanners and Videodrome (my personal favourite), and instead opted for dour and downbeat dramas such as Spider and A History Of Violence, his movies have quite literally been a whole bunch of no fun. This is not to suggest they're bad movies - I don't much care for them, but I do recognise and appreciate their qualities - but they're heavy and overly serious, and could genuinely do with some leavening of humour. I'm not asking for custard pie fights or trousers falling down at inopportune moments, but some verbal wit or character-based levity would honestly not go amiss.

Somewhere in the recesses of David Cronenberg's measured and subtle drama about the birth of psychoanalysis, there lies a wacky but short-lived Channel 4 sitcom in which Freud and Jung (probably played by an up and coming double-act with stick-on beard and moustaches) argue pointlessly about surreal dreams while justifying their demented sexual impulses. That's essentially what happens in A Dangerous Method except there is but the merest trace of the driest humour. In the years leading up to the First World War, Dr Jung (Michael Fassbender, ironically not waving his knob about this time) is happily married and employing the "talking cure" originated by Professor Freud (Viggo Mortensen, permanently chomping on a fat cigar as though it's a symbol of something significant). But Jung makes the stupid mistake of falling in love or lust with Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley, having a stab at a Russian accent), formerly his incoherently raving patient and subsequently his assistant, mistress and spankee (and would later become a highly regarded psychoanalyst in her own right).

The endless, slightly absurd discussions over whether everything comes down to sex frankly makes for a dry old time in the cinema, particularly as the film starts out in very lively fashion with Keira Knightley in full screamy Bedlam mode - writhing, pulling faces, jutting her jaw out and shrieking hysterically with a Russian accent. It's surprising to see her doing such a thing after being an insipid romantic lead in the first three Pirates movies (and indeed the fourth Pirates movie benefited from losing her and the damp Orlando Bloom). Once she's "cured", whether by means of Freud's Talking Cure or Jung's spank-and-bonk technique, it's more about the differences in approach between the two founding father figures of psychoanalysis and it's there that the movie starts to lose me because, what with me being a bit of a thicko, I have little idea what they're banging on about.

Which is not to say A Dangerous Method is at all uninteresting. Certainly it's perfectly well made: on a technical level it's wonderful. But when you've got a crew like Peter Suschitsky (who's been DP on every Cronenberg movie since Dead Ringers) and Howard Shore (who's scored all his films since The Brood with the sole exception of The Dead Zone), not to mention Christopher Hampton writing it and David Cronenberg directing it, clearly it's not going to be a bit of shoddy. And I'm glad to see it getting some exposure at a chain multiplex, albeit only at the larger sites. But it's a very austere film, very restrained, very quiet (there's not a lot of music), and probably a bit difficult to get into if you've little interest in or knowledge of psychoanalysis.


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