A Dangerous Method

True to his­to­ric facts, Cronenberg’s A Dan­ge­rous Method holds some inter­es­ting sur­prises – natu­ral­ly, consi­de­ring the direc­tor and the actors’ work on the subt­lest sta­ging details. (See the Cro­nen­berg inter­view). Some of those details lie on the more comi­cal side, such as Freud’s character. 

So far I had ima­gi­ned Freud in dif­ferent ways, but the idea of a Vien­nese cigar-mun­ching God­fa­ther had not occur­red to me. Cronenberg’s Freud comes across as a slow tal­king, some­times cyni­cal, some­times des­pi­cable plot­ter of ins­ti­tu­tio­nal schemes. A hard-nosed pro­fes­sio­nal sub­ver­sive who seems impres­sed only by the ever-gro­wing anti-semi­tism that besieges him and his new science. And when Jung final­ly falls out of favour, the only sense that comes to Freud’s mind is his desi­gna­ted successor’s « Aryanism ». 

With Spiel­rein and Jung’s res­pec­tive cha­rac­ters, things imme­dia­te­ly seem to run dee­per. The first time we see Spiel­rein, she’s lite­ral­ly how­ling mad. But she seems to get bet­ter with an asto­ni­shing speed, each and eve­ry time Jung addresses her like a nor­mal human being. One can only ima­gine what it must have been like in the asy­lums of the late 19th and ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ries. But Bleu­ler and Jung’s Burghölz­li looks very much like the Anti-Psy­chia­trist‘s dream. Patients, not inmates, are being cared for, offe­red inter­es­ting humane work and most of all are trea­ted like ful­ly res­pon­sible grown-ups. In this uto­pian castle, Spiel­rein not only turns out to be the gif­ted psy­cho­lo­gist that Jung sus­pec­ted right away, but she also learns how to accept and enjoy her sexual fantasies. 

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