A Dangerous Method
At the turn of the 20th
century, there were a couple of brilliant minds developing what would become
the established science of psychotherapy: Carl
and Sigmund Freud in
. They became colleagues and then
friends, but later split, perhaps over ideology, and perhaps also over a young
woman who was originally a patient of Jung’s but then studied under Freud.
Apparently Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) was abused by her father,
but admitted to Dr. Jung that she actually enjoyed the humiliation, and found
it titillating, even. That, apparently,
triggered the latent S & M fantasies of the otherwise-dignified Dr. Jung,
and, according to this film, their inappropriate intimate relationship caused
Dr. Jung’s irrevocable breach with Dr. Freud (as well it should have).
The “talk it through” therapy method, however, was then practiced
by Dr. Spielrein in her native
, but war and chance happened to them all.
Jung’s provocative exploration of
dream interpretation (well-established in the bible) at first drove him mad:
it seems he foresaw the horrible carnage of World War I, which would
give anybody a nervous breakdown if they thought they could have prevented it.
But he wound up outliving everybody and dying peacefully in 1961.
Freud was driven out of
by the Nazis and died in
in 1939. Spielrein was captured and
shot by the Germans when they invaded
in 1942. So what do we learn about the
burgeoning science of psychotherapy from “A Dangerous Method”?
Not much, really.
The Sigmund Freud here (Viggo Mortensen) pontificates like a doting
professor, and seems not nearly edgy enough to propound breakaway theories on
the sexual synergy of human behavior. The
Jung here (Michael Fassbender) is much more tortured, teetering, as he does,
on the brink of guilt and lust while still maintaining the appearance of the
distinguished doctor with the lovely family and beautiful country estate.
And, yes, there are some who will be distracted by Ms. Knightley’s
rather vigorous, physical, psycho-sexual portrayal of the
reviewer thought it was Henri J. Nouwen, the Dutch priest and spiritualist,
who wrote of wounded healers, but here they not only throw around that
concept, 60 years earlier, they seem to revel in it.
Yes, of course, we’re dealing in
transference and counter-transference and searching for the approving
father-figure and considering the balance between self-indulgence and societal
standard-keeping, but we’re not very intellectual about it.
In fact, at the only international conference, all the other
participants pointedly leave the tab le when Jung and Freud start arguing.
As if they’ve heard it all before, or even if they haven’t, it’s
not interesting enough to hang around and find out how the dispute is
resolved. That pretty much sums up this
shallow psycho-babble titillation, as well.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,