A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Dangerous Method -- a smart adult drama about Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, and the early days of psychoanalysis -- deals with frank sexual issues, an extramarital affair, and S&M. Star Keira Knightley appears topless, and there are a couple of pretty graphic sex scenes. Scenes of a patient throwing tantrums and having seizures can be frightening, and there's a little bit of blood. Swearing is infrequent but includes "f--k," and characters often drink and smoke socially, including Freud's ever-present cigar. Given the movie's subject matter and tendency toward talkiness, it's unlikely that teens will be interested -- unless they're drawn to cult director David Cronenberg, who's best known for his horror and gangster films.
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What's the story?
In 1904, a sexually hysterical Russian woman, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), is put under the care of Dr. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender). He eventually cures her of her frightening seizures and, drawing upon her own interest in psychiatry, makes her his assistant. Despite the fact that Jung is already married, his wife pregnant, he starts an affair with Sabina, wherein pleasure is derived from violence. Later, Jung meets his hero, Dr. Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), and though at first they pleasantly argue over opposing theories, they eventually have a falling out over Sabina's fate. Vincent Cassel provides another layer as an analyst getting treatment for his tendency to give in to pleasure impulses.
Is it any good?
Director David Cronenberg delivers the most disappointing movie of his career to date. Which is surprising, as A DANGEROUS METHOD seemed right up his alley: He has often explored issues surrounding the human body, and in his later, more mature films, the theme of identity. Whereas he usually plumbs uncomfortable and powerful depths of human boundaries, here he mostly just skims the surface. A Dangerous Method does have some powerful moments, but ultimately it seems more in the business of avoiding than exploring.
The main problem is that the screenplay comes from Christopher Hampton's theatrical play, which in turn came from a non-fiction book by John Kerr. It takes place over the course of decades, and scenes skip over great chunks of time; nothing ever gets the chance to sink in. However, the excellent performances count for a great deal, and the conversations are exceedingly intelligent, offering up provocative arguments on sex, the ego, and the concept of destiny.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about A Dangerous Method's frank sexual content. What is the purpose of the sex scenes and discussion about sex? Is there an intended message? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding love and sexual relationships.
How does the movie portray psychology? What did you learn by watching? Were Jung and Freud's discussions clear to you? Which one did you tend to agree with more?
How accurate do you think this movie is? How could you find out more about the history behind it? Why might filmmakers want to change certain details?
- In theaters: November 23, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: March 27, 2012
- Cast: Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen
- Director: David Cronenberg
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content and brief language
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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