by Vandana Brahmasa and Sreepriya Menon

“If there is one thing that I’ve learnt in my very short life, it’s this- never repress anything.” This is just one, among the many profound thoughts expressed in the movie A Dangerous Method. With its compelling theme, aesthetically appealing shots, and an amazing star cast (Keira Knightly, Micheal Fasbender and Vigo Mortensen), A Dangerous Method is an excellent movie indeed.  In a refreshing change from tradition, the movie shows the many shortcomings of Freud and his theory and probes into the sources of inspiration for jung’s work.  The movie is based on the true stories of Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spierleim spanning from 1904 to 1913.

The movie focuses on the relationship between Freud and Jung, and how it was affected by their patients: Sabina Spierleim and Otto Gross. Sabina, a Russian Jew is brought to Jung seeking a cure for hysteria. Jung successfully uses Freud’s talking cure to treat Sabina’s hysteria and to reveal her appreciation of masochism. With her progress in therapy, Sabina’s novel theories and strong character is significant to Jung’s deviation of opinions from Freud. In contrast to Freud, she proposed that sex was not just a destructive force, but also a creative force, for in the destruction of two individualities, two egos, something new is born.

Jung’s correspondence with Freud, initiated to discuss Sabina’s case, strengthens over time and the latter subsequently passes on to him, a disturbing Schizophrenic patient- Otto Gross. Gross, ironically, a psychiatrist himself, challenges conventional norms about sex and monogamy in a very intelligent manner and emerges as a compelling character. He is brilliant, insightful, charismatic and persuasive. He views sexual pleasure as inherently simple, until humans choose to complicate it. He remarks that the reason why sex plays a pivotal role in Freud’s theory is that “he doesn’t get any”. At Otto’s behest, and giving into his own id, Jung begins a passionate, masochistic and tempestuous relationship with Sabina.

Freud’s tries to assert his authority and dismiss Jung’s theories about telepathy and parapsychology as mysticism results in a rift as Jung wants to go further in the therapeutic process than merely telling the patients the causes of their neurosis by formulating a realistic way of resolving it.

Jung’s fluctuating feelings of guilt for his wife and love for Sabina are sensitively portrayed in the movie which makes one wonder about how one person’s life-story becomes the future generations’ “theory, and how two women are both inspiration and subservient to the same man. Questions that the film prompts the viewer to ask are whether women could have become psychiatrists at that time, if so, what would be the credibility of a psychiatrist once a patient, and the disturbing factor of underlying uncertainty in the historical narrative of the lives of stalwarts in psychology.

David Cronenberg has created an engrossing movie with Keira Knightly’s delivering a stupendous rendition of Sabina’s character along with Michael Fassbender and Vigo Mortensen who dazzle as Jung and Freud.


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