Cronenberg's Cronenberg movie proves thoroughly Cronenbergian
Saturday, September 10, 6:30 p.m.
Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe Street)
Monday, September 12, 4:45 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 (350 King Street West)
Opening on the image of Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) being carted off to a Carl Jung’s (Michael Fassbender) Swiss clinic, frothing and raving and jutting out her jaw, every bit the image of the Freudian female hysteric, A Dangerous Method sets itself up as a clinical love triangle. Cronenberg’s latest places Spielrein in the middle between the quietly warring methodologies of Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen, curt and excellent) and his sexual theory and Jung’s proto–New Age extensions of it.
Here, all the bubbling subtext (the performances of sex and violence, and the collapsing of psycho-physical barriers) that usually make Cronenberg’s films passably interesting becomes the text itself. Jung’s lite-S&M affair with Spielrein, shot (apart from some post-coital splatter) with a tastefulness that seems almost yoked, plays as meek (repressed?) adolescent handholding against the twisted metal of Crash or the gooey flesh-holes of Videodrome and Naked Lunch. Like a fantasy camp for the would-be Frasier and Niles Cranes fluent in the patois of psychoanalysis, A Dangerous Method‘s inquisitions into medical ethics and the limits of transference seem listless and quite literally by-the-book. And though pretty in that classy costume drama way, its flatness is further dulled by all the clean compositions and competent cuts that define Cronenberg’s stunted classicism. Sure, not every Cronenberg movie needs a slippery bathhouse brawl or some balls-deep chest-fucking. But it’s nicer when they do.