Sadly, the best thing about the film is Vincent Cassel’s cameo as Otto Gross, the drug-addicted, committed immoralist, who was, at one stage, the anointed heir to Freud’s pyschoanalytic throne.
Cassel splashes colour on to a otherwise monochromatic movie, However, at times, the robotic walk-through of Michael Fassbender’s Carl Jung and Viggo Mortensen’s sleepy portrayal of Freud offer welcome relief to Kiera Knightly’s (Sabina Spielrein) hideous overacting (especially in the first third of the movie).
The story follows Jung, Freud and Spielrein’s intersecting relationship in pre-World War One Vienna – Spielrein initially a patient of Jung, who through his treatment of her using Freud’s methods, forges a friendship with the Austrian master.
As time goes on, relationships deepen between Jung and Freud, who sees Jung as his latest intellectual heir, and between Jung and Sabina, who is brilliant despite her ailment. Her treatment is successful, and Sabina pursues a career as a psychiatrist with Jung’s encouragement.
However, the film largely skips over Speilrein’s transformation from traumatised hysteric to promising pyschiatry student, and, soon after, A Dangerous Method descends into a relentless talkfest that scarcely offers a pause to allow the film to breath.
With three such intellectual, historically important characters competing to tell their stories, perhaps a trilogy examining each of their lives would have been a better idea.
Those with at least a rough understanding of Freudian/ Jungian approaches to psychiatry won’t find anything to increase their understanding of each man’s method, and although Mortenson’s Freud is vaguely amusing at times, Fassbender’s neurotic Jung quickly bores.
At the film’s conclusion, it’s revealed that Jung eventually suffered a nervous breakdown, from which he recovered to become the world’s leading psychiatrist. That idea would have made a far more interesting story for the screen. That or the tale of Otto Gross.