A Dangerous Method



Jung/Freud psychology drama has very strong sexual content.
  • Review Date: November 23, 2011
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 99 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie shows how psychology can help people, and it allows characters to thoughtfully discuss different methods and approaches. But it also explores the characters' dark side; they subtly slide from being selfless to selfish.

Positive role models

Carl Jung at first seems like a decent fellow, and he does cure his patient, but he also indulges in adultery and lying and -- other than his own misery -- he doesn't really pay a price for his behavior.


There are some scary moments when a hysterical patient screams and throws tantrums (her body tenses up to a frightening degree, and her jaw juts out). During a vicious argument, she slices Jung's face with a knife. There's also some violent S&M sex, with spanking and whipping.


Jung has an extramarital affair with his patient; scenes include naked breasts, passionate kissing, an orgasm, and blood (from a broken hymen). The affair begins to involve S&M sex, with spanking and whipping. A supporting character has sex with a cleaning lady; her breasts are shown. A female patient tells stories of sexual deviation (getting turned on when her father beat her). A wife is shown to be pregnant, and there are references to contraception.


Language is very infrequent but includes one use of "f--k," plus "c--k" and "penis."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters occasionally drink wine, brandy, and scotch in a social way. Jung smokes a pipe, and Freud smokes a cigar. Other characters smoke cigarettes (accurate for the era).

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.

Parents say

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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 has often explored issues surrounding the human body, and in his later, more mature films, the theme of identity. So A DANGEROUS METHOD seemed right up his alley -- but instead he delivers the most disappointing movie of his career to date. 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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 23, 2011
DVD release date:March 27, 2012
Cast:Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen
Director:David Cronenberg
Studio:Sony Pictures Classics
Run time:99 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:sexual content and brief language

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 15 years old Written byraka73 July 18, 2012

Fascinating Movie, Just Not For Kids

Over all, this movie is about the relationship between Carl Jung and a female patient, Sabrina, who is a masochist. The movie talks a lot about sex and how she was sexually excited by her father spanking her, the humiliation she felt, and how she was sexually excited by that, too. When she arrives at the clinic she is thrashing around a laughing like an insane person, and continues to have on and off psychotic episodes for the next fifteen minutes. She jumps in a small pond with all her clothes on and is dragged out by guards so she can feel sexually excited by the humiliation. Jung asks her if she's masturbated the previous night and she tells him yes. There are a few sex scenes between Jung and Sabrina, including one where Jung is briefly shown spanking her with a belt. Sabrina's breasts are shown briefly and there is a spot of blood on the sheets. A man is also shown having sex with a woman in the back yard of Jung's clinic. Throughout the movie Freud talks about his theories on psycho-sexual analysis. Both Jung and Freud drink socially and Freud is often seen smoking a cigar. The f word is thrown around a few times but overall the language isn't too bad. When talking about genitals and other sexual body parts the proper words are used. Overall this movie is very talky, and most kids would find its story boring and may not understand what's going on. I thought the movie was an interesting look at a unique patient.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 12 years old February 1, 2012

Not suitable for Children

What a horrid film. Definately NOT for kids.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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