Plot: What’s it about?
I’m sure that we all remember our high school Psychology class and no doubt the name Sigmund Freud comes to mind (pardon the pun) when thinking of Psychology or Psychiatry. A quick note: the difference between a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist is that the latter is a physician who went to medical school (an M.D.) whereas the other has a Ph.D. So while both are “doctors”, the Psychiatrist is the one who can prescribe medication and so forth. Ok, now that we’ve got that out of the way…for those that don’t remember their Psychology class we’ve got Dr. Freud, who essentially pioneered the “Free Association” technique in that patients somewhat work things out for themselves by verbalizing what their problems were. Conversely Dr. Carl Jung explored more of the psyche and later dream interpretation. Though the two started out as colleagues (student and teacher if you will), differing opinions led to some vast differences in their beliefs.
A Dangerous Method is more than a crash course in Psychology, of course. In it we find Dr. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), an eager young doctor who takes on a very interesting case with Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightly). Sabina is mentally ill and there’s no denying that. However she also has aspirations of becoming a psychiatrist herself. As Jung both counsels and mentors her, his feelings for her start to grow. Despite being a married man with children, the walls of the doctor/patient relationship start to crumble. Dr. Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) advises, via letter, as to some of Jung’s decisions and as the two share their ideas, it’s clear that Sabina has had an adverse affect on Dr. Jung. Based on a true story, A Dangerous Method tells the tale and shows sides of Jung and Freud that not a lot of people know.
If you’re looking for an action-packed movie that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat, you might want to look elsewhere. Granted this is a film by master director David Cronenberg (his third collaboration with actor Viggo Mortensen), but a movie about a couple of psychiatrists can only be so entertaining. The three lead actors gained a lot of accolades and while no one really stands out as having a tour-de-force performance, I’d have to give the edge to the conflicted Fassbender character. While Keira Knightly seemed to be doing her best, I just couldn’t buy her contortions as mental illness. Admittedly when playing a historical icon like Sigmund Freud, Mortensen had the bar set pretty high, though I preferred him in Eastern Promises and A History of Violence than in this. Still, the movie managed to keep my interest though I think the interaction between Freud and Jung would have been better than communication via letters. It gave their face-to-face scenes a bit of awkwardness.
Video: How does it look?
The 1.85:1 AVC HD image is consistent with Cronenberg’s other films in that it doesn’t really use the wider scope that other films utilize. Set in Europe, we get some scenes that look very bright and vivid. I’m probably perpetuating a stereotype here, but I always assume films overseas will always have a dull and drab look to them. Not so, here. Flesh tones look natural, we can see the definition in Mortensen’s beard and even count the whiskers as well. Black crush looks normal and contrast is on par to boot. As a new to Blu-ray film, this essentially delivers what we’d expect it to. Nothing left too big of an impression on me, but it’s above average, for sure.
Audio: How does it sound?
The box might say that this has a DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack, but there’s really nothing that stood out to me. Dialogue is at the heart of this film and was the most important element of the soundtrack. Vocals sound rich and well-focused. There are a handful of scenes which utilize the surrounds, but even a mere 48 hours after seeing the film I can’t seem to remember where they were. Like the video presentation, it’s a good and decent mix but nothing that really lept out at me as being all too memorable.
Supplements: What are the extras?
We don’t get too much in regard to supplements though director David Cronenberg does supply a fairly interesting commentary track for the film. I’m a fan of his commentary tracks and have enjoyed them on some previous movies. We also get the obligatory “Making Of…” as we get some behind the scenes footage with the main cast and what led them to the part, etc. Finally we’ve got “AFI’s Harold Lloyd Master Seminar with David Cronenberg” which is a rather interesting little piece. James Hosney of the American Film Institute talks with Cronenberg about the movie, the original play and the story of the actual characters in it. We get a crash course and if you’re not going to listen to the commentary, this will suffice in 1/3 the time. Also included is the theatrical trailer.