Arriving in UK cinemas after debuting at both the Venice and Toronto film festivals in 2011, David Cronenberg’s historical period piece revolving around the complex relationship of psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and the treatment of disturbed patient, Sabina Spielrein, finally receives a general release.
The veteran director has assembled a stylish and accomplished cast to flesh out his character driven melodrama whilst also teaming with scribe Christopher Hampton, himself adapting his own stage play The Talking Cure (2002).
Michael Fassbender is currently riding high on the critical acclaim awarded to his deeply troubled portrayal of a sex addict in Shame (2012) and the intensity may well be continued here as the actor disappears into character mode to portray therapist Carl Jung, exploring both his relationship and work with mentor Sigmund Freud as well as his attraction to troubled patient Spielrein.
Viggo Mortensen, an actor who has previously worked with the Canadian director in the psychological thriller A History of Violence (2005) is also to be seen slipping into disguise as the father of psychotherapy himself, Sigmund Freud. And whilst Kiera Knightley is certainly no stranger to period set drama, it will be interesting to witness how the actress expands her range to portray an individual with some deeply disturbed emotions.
Both the screen and stage play were highly influenced by the 1993 publication A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein by John Kerr.
Kerr’s book traced the events that transpired between the three characters, the work undertaken into psychoanalysis during the period, the differing theories advocated by Freud and Jung as well as the journey taken by Spielrein from patient to one of the first female psychoanalysts.
As for the film’s trailer, those expecting the stylish suspense of recent Cronenberg movies such as Eastern Promises (2007) or the shock horror of classics such as Videodrome (1983) may be surprised to find a teaser for a seemingly talkative and almost contemplative movie that examines the morals and theories of the godfathers of psychotherapy.
The visuals also seem evocative of the early 20th Century with the crisply captured and lightly light Swiss cityscapes, inclusive of their sanatoriums, beautifully framed by cinematographer Peter Suschitzky.
The dilemmas brought about by the relationship entered into by Jung and Spielrein seems to be tensely realised by the top notch cast and perhaps assisted by Hampton, who previously ensured that the screws of the moral maze were slowly turned in his successful screenplay for Dangerous Liaisons (1988).
But although the footage on show is undoubtedly well crafted it remains to be seen whether Cronenberg’s highbrow dramatisation of the trials and tribulations of the forefathers of psychotherapy will appeal to both wider audiences and die hard Cronenberg fanatics alike.