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A Dangerous Method

In: Uncategorized

27 Dec 2011

A recently released movie is all about Carl Gustav Jung, his life, his theories and his various interactions including one with Sigmund Freud. It  as titled A Dangerous Method. I wrote a review of this film in a movie blog that I write with my wife titled FilmRap.net.

It is reproduced below. As always your comments are invited. In two weeks my next blog will feature an interview about this movie with Dr. Thomas Kirsch a Jungian analyst.

A Dangerous Method

As people who have some some acquaintance with  psychoanalytic theory and it’s history, we were drawn to want to see this movie. The psychiatrist among the two of us found it a more enjoyable experience although we both found many deficiencies in the movie. This movie, directed by David Cronenberg, with a screenplay by Christopher Hampton which came from a book by John Kerr, of course is based on real people and highlights the break between Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung who at one time Freud had thought would be his heir apparent to the psychoanalytic movement. The movie starts off in the early 1900s as a young women, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) is involuntarily brought to the Burgholzi, a  psychiatric hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, run by the famed Eugen Bleuler. Her exaggerated mannerisms and dramatic presentation suggests the type of “hysterical” patients who were known to be hospitalized in those days. Jung (Michael Fassbender) becomes her psychiatrist at the hospital and begins to use the new psychoanalytic method which Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) in Vienna has advocated. He ultimately is shown  becoming drawn into a sadomachistic sexual romantic affair with her. Jung travels to Vienna and meets with Freud several times in which they discuss theoretical issues as well as this patient. Over time Freud is depicted as becoming disenchanted with his previously highly regarded younger colleague. The reasons for this rift would appear to be Jung’s willingness to go beyond Freud’s concept of sexuality and psychic determinism and bring in such ideas as the supernatural, premonitions, telepathy, religion and many others that were not explained in much detail in the movie. In fact, the more well known ideas of Jung about the collective unconscious , symbolism and dream analysis were not very well clarified.

Carl Gustav Jung

Freud appeared to be concerned that any significant deviation from his main thesis and what he believed was the scientific method might be a reason for his theories to fail to gain wide acceptance. As best we can determine, in reality the actual affair between Jung and Speilrein was suspected, but historically it was  not universally agreed that it had actually occurred. In this movie it is shown that  Speilrein wrote to Freud and told him of her affair after Jung rejected her. Freud did not believe her and she subsequently is depicted as convincing Jung to acknowledge the affair to Freud who then gave this as an additional reason for cutting his ties with Jung. Once again Freud is very concerned about the appearance of his analytic movement and such behavior as an affair with one’s patient  at that time as well as at present would be highly unethical. The nature of the affair and the meaning of their attraction to each other is really a key part of this movie, whether it actually happened or not. The characters in their dialogue state that Jung, who is shown being torn by the relationship, views attraction to his patient to be  on the “dark side” and that with his wife on the “loving” side.  Yet he declares his undying  love for Spelrein and is bereft by her leaving him. We are not provided with real insight inot this relationship nor any significant understanding of Jung’s conflict. The film also does not do enough to explicate Jung’s ideas and their influence on Spielrein. While we more often proclaim that a movie should have been tightened up and shortened we believe this film needed a clearer illustration of the ideas that this story was supposed to be  about.  The acting in the film was very strong. The atmosphere of Freud’s office, the streets , people’s dress, horse drawn vehicles and early motor cars made it a wonderful period piece. But alas, as much as we were interested to learn about these people, we felt we came up short in our understanding as well as in caring about them.

Coming Soon : Q & A  About This Movie with Dr. Thomas Kirsch

The next PsychiatryTalk blog will feature a  special interview with  Dr. Thomas Kirsch, a psychoanalyst  and leading expert on Dr. Jung. In it Dr. Kirsch will discuss how well it depicted the various people in the movie as well as Jung’s theories.

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