a dangerous mess

Saturday, February 18, 2012 6:00:20 PM

film making, Cronenberg, Freud, canadian film, Jung, film

A week ago I went to see David Cronenberg’s new film A Dangerous Method. I did so although I had had doubts about this version of a play based on a nonfiction book about the relationship between Freud and Jung and a female patient of Jung’s, especially in view of the fact that the over-exposed Keira Knightley was in it. Well, I did not like the film one bit and I was not the only one in the audience that felt this way.
I believe the film did not do justice to Jung in any way (if you know Jung’s work you’ll be offended by the way he’s portrayed, if you don’t know his work you’ll go away believing he’s a smug, self satisfied weak bourgeois nonentity trying to get one over on his Big Daddy Freud.)
But my problem with the film is its failure as film not a question of representation. Again I find the key problem is the failure to achieve a successful adaptation of a stage play. Film has the power to “open out” the story from the confines of the stage yet this power bears within it the risk of dissipating the intensity that a live stage play engenders. As with Incendies (but much worse), this film is boring, the characters histrionic displays in the wide open landscape are puerile and decontextualised. We don’t see the wider society the two men are operating in, so we don’t really know what they are grappling with. And it was “talk talk talk.” Any opportunity for nuance was ignored.
I feel that Cronenberg simply did not have a “feel” for the material, that he did not care about it or did not understand it. It is strangely hollow and empty, tiresome and slight while at the same time trying to be portentious. Yet the subject matter in itself is quite gripping.
Still I have never been keen on Christopher Hampton’s screenplays. I far preferred Valmont, Milos Forman’s version of the Choderlos de Laclos novel to the Frears-directed Hampton-scripted Dangerous Liasions, though it was a very free adaptation from the book. But it was more dramatic and filmic. I don’t think many people agreed with me on that one. But there were certainly some unusually forthright scoffs in the audience last Monday for A Dangerous Method.
©G. McIver 2012 all rights reserved

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