A Dangerous Method
David Cronenberg’s telling of the uneasy birth of psychoanalysis is remarkably restrained, almost disappointingly so initially, with none of the physical manifestations of the monsters within us that are his trademark. What better opportunity for his insane visions than material about repressed feelings waiting to burst free? But the director knows best, allowing his actors and the Christopher Hampton screenplay to simmer and boil in a naturalistic way.
The film focuses on fin de siècle Europe as Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) is becoming nearly as famous as his elder, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). The two have a respectful father-and-son relationship, even though they get on each other’s nerves. At this point in his life, Freud doesn’t believe that a cigar is ever just a cigar, seeing sex as the motivation for everything, which irks his colleague. Jung has a weakness for telepathy and other such humbug, which Freud cannot fathom. But they remain on good terms, with Freud hopeful that his work will continue through Jung.
Into their lives comes Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), an aspiring doctor and a patient of Jung’s who has been driven completely mad by her obsession with being humiliated. Jung helps her become functional again, but the married doctor crosses ethical boundaries by entering into a sado-masochistic sexual relationship with his patient. A controlling father, a rebellious son, a brilliant madwoman, an illicit relationship–as any analyst could tell you, things are bound to go horribly wrong.
On a voyage to America, Freud dryly remarks to his shipmate Jung that they are bringing “the plague” with them. But what they are doing, of course, is trying to end to a mass sickness–one of silence, secrecy and repression. But such a process is bound to be messy, not only for the film’s three principals but for all of mankind. Nothing is more dangerous than a repressed society, but you can’t expect to open one up without doing some damage. Watch trailer.
General Orders No. 9
Robert Persons and crew borrow the halting voiceovers of Ross McElwee and majestic cinematography of Terrence Malick for this jaw-dropping, paranoid piece of anti-urban propaganda. Against a series of gorgeous images of rustic Georgia, narrator William Davidson reads a harebrained and almost threatening script that imagines everything natural as beautiful and everything developed as evil. Phrases like “the city is terminus…it’s the absence of idea, of order” and “the focus of the city became something aberrant” spill forth with sincerity and frequency, seemingly aimed at survivalists and militia members. The experimental doc seems assured that there is no poison made by nature, no beauty made by humans. There are a few scenes of urban centers, but they are unsurprisingly shot to look as ugly as can be. The whole thing’s so over the top that I would almost think it a parody of some odd sort, but, no, it’s genuine and borderline sinister. “The city is not a place…it’s a thing,” the film disgustedly tells us. Yes, the greatest thing mankind has ever invented. Watch trailer.
Some recent films I liked now on home video: