I think Freud's obsession with sex probably has a great deal to do with the fact that he never gets any.A Dangerous Method
is a 2011 period drama directed by David Cronenberg
. It concerns the beginning of Carl Jung
's (Michael Fassbender
) career in psychoanalysis, told through his relationships with a patient, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley
), and his mentor, Sigmund Freud
Jung, an up-and-coming Swiss doctor, is working at a sanatorium when he begins to treat a certain Sabina Spielrein. Sabina, a Russian Jew, is hysterical, and Jung decides to try the "talking cure" being popularized by Freud in Vienna. The treatment proves successful, and Sabina returns to medical school, staying in contact with Jung. The two develop a romantic relationship, with Jung dissatisfied with his marriage to a young Swiss heiress. Their affair is intellectual (exploring Jung's fascination with memes and classic archetypes) and sexual (exploring Sabina's masochism in a consensual environment). Eventually, the guilt of his infidelity overwhelms Jung (as well as rumors revealing its existence to the public), and he ends the affair despite Sabina's vehement opposition. Eventually, the two reconcile and re-initiate their affair, but this time, Sabina breaks it off to go work in Vienna with Freud.
Meanwhile, Jung and Freud begin a correspondence. While impressed with Freud, Jung has reservations about his rigidly sexual approach to the human psyche. Freud brands Jung his successor and heir, reinforcing the paternalistic relationship. The two collaborate but continue to grow apart for a variety of reasons: Jung denies that all psychology is sexual and final, while Freud denounces Jung's interest in non-traditional venues of psychological study, which he calls "mystical nonsense." The two also chafe at their sociopolitical differences; Freud an Austrian Jew with little expendable income, and Jung a wealthy Swiss Protestant. This is all complicated by Jung's affair with Sabina; the young woman turns to Freud after their affair ends, and Jung feels betrayed, convinced she has chosen Freud's interpretation of psychoanalysis over his.
The film ends with Jung approaching a nervous breakdown, cut off by Freud and Sabina.
This film contains examples of:
- All Psychology Is Freudian: Played straight; even as Jung splits from Freud, his methodology is based in Freud's work.
- Breaking Speech: Gross to Jung.
- Big Applesauce: Jung and Freud visit America for a psychological conference, and the only shot is of their boat approaching Manhattan.
- Biopic: The film only covers 12 years of Jung's life but touches on most of the arcs of his biography.
- Broken Pedestal: Freud gradually becomes one for Jung, who laments that his master is seeking obedient disciples rather than colleagues.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Dr. Otto Gross - a neurotic kleptomaniac who is considered to be one of the best in his field by Freud himself.
- Carl Jung: The film portrays him as a conflicted figure, if ultimately correct.
- Character Development: Jung and Sabina, in particular, grow to be very complex characters.
- Cigar Chomper: Freud is quite the cigar aficionado.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: Jung claims to have been experiencing bouts of ESP his entire life, and in one scene (set in 1914), describes a dream where Northern Europe is drowned in a tidal wave of blood.
- The Edwardian Era
- Eternal Sexual Freedom: Subverted. While Jung's conversations with Otto Gross about monogamy are radical, they are treated as such.
- Florence Nightingale Effect: The mental health variety with Jung and Sabina.
- Freudian Couch: Averted. Strangely, never makes an appearance. Everyone conducts their therapy while seated upright.
- Freudian Excuse: Played straight. Sabina reveals, during therapy, that her masochism stems from the violent punishments she received as a child from her father.
- Freud Was Right: Part of the crux is the in-universe dispute whether he is or not. At least he was right in Sabina's case, concerning the sexual roots of her hysteria.
- Word of God, David Cronenberg and Mortensen have stated that they are totally pro-Freud and believe that he was in the right.
- The Hedonist: Otto Gross, who never repress any urges and advocates for the opposite, serving as The Corrupter for Jung.