A Dangerous Method: David Cronenberg's Cinema of the Anus
Finally, a movie that gives me the opportunity to make a meaty attack on cinema's undying dependence on Sigmund Freud. But before I get my teeth into that matter, some words on this film's story and artistic worth. Set at the opening of the 20th century (the twilight of European global dominance), the film is about a relationship between Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). The latter, a beautiful Russian Jew, is a mental patient of the former, a Swiss psychiatrist. After the former cures the latter of her madness, he becomes her lover. She likes it rough; he is married but can't resist exploring the limits of desire. In the middle of all of this scandal and spanking appears, of course, the most famous psychiatrist who ever lived, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). The Viennese quack (as Vladimir Nabokov was fond of calling him) smokes long penises and thinks everything comes down to the anus. The movie ends on a sad note. A Dangerous Method's artistic value is very respectable—the costumes are faultless, the pacing impeccable, and the performances solid (particularly Fassbender's). Indeed, it's hard to imagine David Cronenberg making a film that is not worth seeing.
That said, let's return to Freud. Lazy directors and actors love the Viennese quack because his analysis of human behavior offers the visual side of the art an easy way to externalize subjective states. And exactly why are Freud's ideas bad for this purpose? Because, as even the Jung in A Dangerous Method points out repeatedly, they are very limited, predictable, impoverished—everything comes down to sex, and sex comes down to the anus. So whenever a director employs Freud to communicate the inner worlds of his/her characters, we are always left with an anus: Why is he looking at that? It has something to do with his anus. Why does she scream like that? It has something to do with her anus. Why does the boy long for his mummy? It has something to do with his anus. Why is the girl so upset about her daddy? It must have something to do with her anus. The cinema of the new century must break with this old and dusty black hole.