In A Dangerous Method, David Cronenberg explores the origins of psychoanalysis by chronicling the personal lives of its founding figures, Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). Using the then-experimental “talking cure,” Jung helps Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) overcome her trauma.
Enticed by her and Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel), a coke-fueled anarchist psychologist, Jung falls into a torrid affair with Spielrein, jeopardizing his career. While the film has a kinky libido (Spielrein loves getting spanked), it excels, appropriately, in the talking, particularly between Freud and Jung. Trading wry quips, the two men share a free-flowing friendship.
As Gross puts it in the film, “Freud’s obsession with sex probably has a great deal to do with the fact that he never gets any.” Jung and Freud’s ideas have given solace to millions, so it’s fascinating to see the two struggle as they try to shape their inchoate musings into concepts like the anima, thanatos, and the collective unconscious. —Nick Sibilla