Middle row, centre: Therapy and psychodrama

The last in Landmark Cinemas ‘Filmtastic Films series for this season screens this week at the Qwanlin.

A Dangerous Method is the latest film from Canadian director David Cronenberg, and explores the historic origins of modern psychoanalytic theory with three very fine actors.

Viggo Mortensen, (Eastern Promises, A History Of Violence) stars as Sigmund Freud in his third film with Cronenberg, while Michael Fassbender plays Freud’s one-time protégé and then rival, Carl Gustav Jung.

Keira Knightely plays Sabina Spielrein, a figure of importance in both men’s lives, and the first woman to become a psychiatrist.

Knightley is perhaps best known for her role as buccaneer Elizabeth Swann in The Pirates of the Caribbean films, while Fassbender most recently appeared on local screens two weeks ago as the sex addict Brandon Sullivan in Shame.

Although it was not a presence at this year’s Academy Awards, A Dangerous Method picked up five Canadian Genie awards earlier in March, including best supporting actor for Mortensen.

As the film opens, we see the 18-year-old, Russian-born Spielrein being transported in a carriage to Jung’s clinic in Switzerland in 1904.

She is hysterical and totally out of control, doubtless destined for a 19th century back wardsomewhere.

Instead, Jung works with her, employing an early form of the talk therapy that became indelibly associated with Freud, whom Jung considered as his mentor at this point in time.

Consulting with the senior psychologist, Jung comes to the conclusion that Spielrein’s illness issado-masochistic in nature, stemming from the beatings administered by an authoritarian father from the age of four.

Contrary to their intended purpose, her father’s punishments only served to sexually excite the young Spielrein, who carried a propensity for rough sex into her adolescence, with disastrous results for her sanity.

As Jung unravels all this, he falls into a sexual relationship withSpielrein, no doubt setting a precedent for many a patient/psychoanalyst relationship to follow over the history of psychotherapy.

His professional and personal relationship with her lasts the span of some 10 years, right up to the brink of the First World War.

These years also witness his break with Freud, who parts company with Jung over what he perceives as the younger doctor’s preoccupation with mysticism.

For her part, Spielrein—although largely forgotten in the annals of psychiatry— went on to develop an alliance with Freud after her break with Jung, studied psychotherapy herself, and became the director of child psychology at a prestigious Moscow university.

A Dangerous Method is an engrossing film from a historical standpoint, as well as being a fascinating look into the psychodrama that unfolded in the personal lives of the two leading luminaries of modern psychiatry.

A Dangerous Method plays at 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 25, and 7 p.m. the next evening at theQwanlin Cinema, with no posted rating.

This weekend also brings Out North, the Yukon’s first annual queer film festival, playing at the Old Fire Hall March 24 and 25.

With a lineup of four feature films and a number of shorts, the festival highlights Gun Hill Road, a nominee for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

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