Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Trailerspotting on A Dangerous Method

Which film are you looking forward to the most this year? Readers will be aware that Screenwriter is eagerly anticipating Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. But the prize for most promising feature might just go to David Cronenberg’s A …

Thu, Jun 23, 2011, 20:22

   
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Which film are you looking forward to the most this year? Readers will be aware that Screenwriter is eagerly anticipating Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. But the prize for most promising feature might just go to David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method. Cronenberg has long been a student of Sigmund Freud, so a film detailing the relationship between that still controversial figure and eccentric, semi-crackpot C J Jung is surely an intriguing one.

The trailer scares up mixed emotions. As we have said a thousand times, such promos rarely tell you anything worth knowing about the quality of the film. Quite often a promotional silk purse is made from a festering sow’s lughole. I half suspect that the opposite is the case here. Fan my oxters and mop my brow. They really are selling the thing as some sort of careering romp. Viggo Mortensen is characteristically solemn as Freud. Our own Michael Fassbender is sinister as Jung. All well and good. But with all that spanking, all that pounding music (probably not from the film) and all that breathless dialogue, the trailer comes across like an advertisement for a particularly vivid Victorian melodrama. Watch out Russian Keira Knightley. If you’re not careful, Professor Jung will tie you to the train tracks while twirling his moustache.

I wouldn’t be too fearful. We can trust Mr Cronenberg. Few film-makers of his generation have done such a fine job of maturing gracefully. The creepy wizard of trangression who made early exercises in revulsion such as Shivers and The Brood still shows his face from time to time. But the older Cronenberg has, with cracking films such as History of Violence and Eastern Promises, shown himself to be a master of the steady build. The casting all seems pretty sound — Knightley is at her best when fragile — and the screenplay is by the bright (if erratic) Christopher Hampton.

It is, perhaps, surprising that we haven’t had more Freud on film. He was in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. He turned up in that diverting Sherlock Holmes variation The Seven Percent Solution. Montgomery Clift played him in an interesting biopic by John Huston. And then, of course, there were his dog food commercials. Hang on. Do I have this right?

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