Yesterday I watched A Dangerous Method starring Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud, Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung, and Kiera Knightly as Sabina Spielrein. Overall the film was interesting, but it did not live up to expectations. Rather than focusing primarily on Freud (played exceptionally well by Mortensen) the plot orbited the affair of Jung (played quite well by Fassbender) with his former patient, Spielrein (Knightly did a great job as well).
I wanted to know about the controversy surrounding the evolution of psychoanalysis, not that of the sexual tensions between Jung and Spielrein. This would have been an interesting subplot, but it became the main story. Freud takes to the background as Jung’s fatherly figure who is often disappointed with Jung as he risks downgrading the budding field due to his superstitions and who violates polity by taking a former patient as a mistress.
What stood out in the film was the revolutionary thinking concerning human sexuality. Jung became obsessed. He began as a principled man, but he became one who couldn’t find a good reason to deny his urges, even if this meant infidelity to his wife and risking the reputation of his studies. While Freud frames all his finding in euphemistic language he seems more disciplined and aware of the the give-and-take of his own actions in relation to the concepts he was trying to legitimize. Yet Freud was aware that at the bottom of it all the animalistic tendencies were there and they were real.
Prior to giving in to his urges Jung asks many people whether or not a civilized society can exist if everyone follows their sexual urges. He is eventually convinced this doesn’t matter, but the question itself is worth considering for the views. If there are no guidelines in a society regarding sexuality what becomes of that society? If there are men having sex with women with no eventual responsibility for fatherhood then we either have a very damaging blow to the female gender who are the unfortunate ones who have wombs or we abort our children which results in the demise of a civilization’s population. A shrinking population results in extinction. A population where men don’t participate in raising children or they have children with more women than is manageable is a world where women are forced to raise the next generation alone. This puts a halt on their progress as a gender for as many single mothers know it is quite hard to be a career person while raising a child without support.
When human sexuality is viewed through the eyes of the individual the question of how things impact “me” may lead to sexual chaos. “I” don’t have to stay with the woman. “I” don’t have to keep the child. If we examine it as a society then I think things change and this is something that must be considered while watching this film.
It is rated R for a reason. There are some semi-graphic scenes, so be aware of that. Overall I thought the inability of the writers to deliver a compelling story line in spite of some great acting (again, Mortensen plays a very good Freud) makes this a cheap-seats theater at best or I’d wait until it can be watched at home.