It must be hard being a psychoanalyst when most of your time is spent trying to figure out the crazy things going on in your mind and whether they make any sense. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) is an ardent believer in the science of psychoanalysis. He uses the teachings of Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) to further his work. However, their field of study is just beginning to blossom. They find themselves making large amounts of it up as they go along, yet they try their hardest to root everything in science. When a new patient arrives on Jung's doorstep, being restrained by orderlies, the movie soon becomes about science versus morality and how the two forces constantly work against each other.
Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) is the new patient. She's a very troubled woman who flinches every time Jung approaches her. The abuse she has suffered at the hands of her father has brought her to a very dark place. Using Freud's methods, mixed with some of his own, Jung is slowly able to calm this once raging lunatic. What he discovers is a brilliant mind lying dormant. Then the affair starts.
Jung has a wife and he loves her. He loves his children also, but there's something about Sabina that draws him in. Jung forgets the professional approach and just can't help himself. After listening to session after session of Sabina's kinky sexually abusive past, he becomes aroused. The trailer would have you think that the entire movie is about this illicit love affair between a doctor and his patient but it's not.
Jung is modernizing the science of psychoanalysis right under Freud's nose by using different methods he thought up himself. While Freud is mired in his old ways, thinking that those ways are the only ways, Jung decides to go with more supernatural approaches to practicing the medicine. It soon becomes a struggle between the two men to figure out which way is the right way, or if there are more than one way to help a person with mental illness.
David Cronenberg directs a very methodical movie here. He isn't interested so much in the "plot" as he is in the movie's characters. The trailer would misrepresents the movie as it focuses almost solely on Sabina. That's only part of the story. Here we get two fantastic performances from two actors who embody these historical figures. Fassbender provides a certain innocence about Jung, while Mortensen successfully provides more than enough intimidation by portraying one of history's most well-known psychoanalysts.
I don't know a lot about the field of study, and I've never experienced it first hand, but I felt like I was learning while I was watching this movie. The conversations between Freud and Jung are intoxicating as they seemingly run circles around themselves. We're left to wonder if they even know what they're talking about. They seem so sure and unsure at the same time.
Sabina is also interested in the field of study, and doesn't get caught up in the Alpha Male struggle that Freud and Jung find themselves in. She's able to come to more solid conclusions, while the two men fight it out amongst themselves.
'A Dangerous Method' is about struggle with one's inner self. Is it possible to help others with their psychological problems when it's so hard for most of us to simply control ourselves? I found the film to be a fascinating descent into the mind and how we perceive thoughts and emotions. Another great Cronenberg film.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a Sony Pictures Classics release. It comes in a standard Blu-ray keepcase. The movie is pressed onto a 50GB Blu-ray Disc. The back of the case indicates this being a Region A only release.
Sony has no shortage of immaculate transfers out there, and this is simply another one to add to their splendid looking collection of films. The transfer captures Cronenberg's moody, brooding feel. Peter Suschitzky's ('The Empire Strikes Back') shadow-infused cinematography is presented with crystal clarity here.
Fine detail is at optimum levels. You'll notice hundreds of thousands of tiny pebbles making up Jung's large driveway when Sabina first arrives at his hospital. Freud's smoke from his ever-present cigar curls and circles in the air, all the time perfectly visible. Facial detail is out-of-this-world amazing. Even though Mortensen is sporting a false nose, you can tell that the makeup was applied with high definition in mind since it seamlessly blends into his face.
Blacks are inky, creating the foreboding atmosphere that was intended for the movie. Crushing never rears its ugly head. The shadows here accentuate faces, features and textures. Contrasting the darkness of the film is the natural light that flows freely in many scenes. The great white buildings in Vienna show a wonderful ability of the transfer to provide stellar contrast on each end of the light spectrum. Skin tones are always natural looking and have a nice lifelike glow under the movie's streams of natural light. I was extremely impressed with every aspect of this transfer. Not once did I run into aliasing, banding or any other such artifacts. Another flawless presentation from Sony.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is just as impressive. The first thing that you'll notice is Howard Shore's ominous original score. Shore was nominated for an Oscar for his work on 'Hugo,' but that doesn't mean that this score is any less superb. There's plenty of low-end sound provided in the score to keep the sub-woofer busy. The score bleeds into the rear speakers providing an encompassing effect, instantly drawing you into the movie.
Thankfully this dialogue-heavy movie features crystalline voices. The front and center speakers harbor most of the film's speech – only a few ancillary sounds and voices make it around to the rears. This mix is more about nuance than brashness. So you'll notice little sounds like the crunching of gravel as orderlies try to subdue Sabine on the driveway. The way these nuanced sounds are handled is striking. You never feel like you're missing anything. Even the smallest details are covered here. The rear speakers are a little sparse when it comes to surround sound material, but other than that this is a very engaging track that perfectly represents the mood of the film.
I found this movie fascinating, and I’m not even all that interested in psychoanalysis. It just goes to show what a film can do for its characters when it isn't all that obsessed with running us through a rigid plot structure. There are three great performances here. It's definitely worth watching, especially with the spot on audio and video provided by Sony. Recommended.