New Movie: ‘A Dangerous Method’

New Movie: ‘A Dangerous Method’

Aug 20




A Dangerous Method is an upcoming historical film, directed by David Cronenberg and starring Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley and Vincent Cassel. The screenplay was adapted by Academy Award-winning writer Christopher Hampton from his 2002 stage play The Talking Cure, itself based on the 1993 non-fiction book by John Kerr, A Most Dangerous Method.

The film marks the third collaboration between Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen (after A History of Violence and Eastern Promises). This is also the third film British film producer Jeremy Thomas has made with Cronenberg, after together completing the William Burroughs adaptation Naked Lunch and the J.G. Ballard adaptation Crash. A Dangerous Method was a German/Canadian co-production.

PLOT: Set on the eve of the World War I, A Dangerous Method is based on the turbulent relationships between fledgling psychiatrist Carl Jung, his mentor Sigmund Freud, and Sabina Spielrein, the troubled but beautiful young woman who comes between them.


Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud
Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung
Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein
Vincent Cassel as Otto Gross
Sarah Gadon as Emma Jung




Movie Website
Book ‘A Most Dangerous Method’
Wikipedia on ‘A Dangerous Method’



A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein
By John Kerr
Paperback: 624 pages
Publisher: Vintage
August 2, 1994

Original Link

From Publishers Weekly:

“This exciting study sheds much new light on the vexed Jung-Freud partnership and on the current status of psychoanalysis. At its hub is Sabina Spielrein (1886-1941), one of the first women psychoanalysts, whom Jung treated for hysteria when she was 18. She evidently fell in love with Jung, and he broke off their intense relationship to avert public scandal. Spielrein found in Freud a friend and mentor, confiding to him the details of her attachment to Jung. Kerr, a clinical psychologist and historian, asserts that Freud attempted to use what he knew about Jung’s personal life to exert ideological control over the psychoanalytic movement. In Kerr’s scenario, Jung apparently was aware of Freud’s secret affair with his sister-in-law Minna Bernays — an affair which is denied by many biographiers, but that Kerr defends as plausible based on Jung’s explicit testimony and on recent scholarship. It was after Jung threatened to retaliate by revealing what he knew about Freud’s personal life, Kerr maintains, that their collaboration dissolved. He argues that both men had an opportunity to make psychoanalysis an open, scientifically grounded discipline, but instead succumbed to ambition, dogma and personal animus. Kerr also charges that Freud and Jung suppressed Spielrein’s own fertile theory of the unconscious, which conceived of sexuality as fusion rather than pleasure.”

From Library Journal:

“Spielrein, one of the first women psychoanalysts, was Jung’s patient, student, and lover; later, she was Freud’s colleague in Vienna. Her diary and letters were previously discussed in Aldo Carotenuto’s A Secret Symmetry: Sabina Spielrein Between Jung and Freud ( LJ 5/15/82). Using these and other sources, including Jung’s letters to Spielrein, clinical psychologist and historian Kerr reconstructs Spielrein’s relationship with Jung and Freud, portraying her as an influential if peripheral figure during their period of collaboration. Kerr has written a fascinating history of psychoanalysis focusing on its origin as a clinical method of psychotherapy. Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.”

By Craig Chalquist, PhD
January 10, 2004

Original Link

Isn’t it strange that although this well-researched and readable book has been out ten years now, not a single analyst, Jungian or Freudian, has reviewed it here?

During my training as a depth psychologist I heard and read a lot about the Freud-Jung relationship, about its shattering on the rocks of politicking and father complexes, and a bit about the unfortunate Sabina Spielrein, one-time patient of Jung. At this point nobody in the field is shocked to hear about the Founding Fathers having sex with their patients, however inappropriate or damaging it may have been (Freud seems to have been a rare exception to this kind of acting out).

What’s troubling to read in this book is not so much Jung’s having an affair with Spielrein — harmful enough all by itself — but the casual brutality in how he handled it: the resumption of it after she had attacked him and asked Freud for help, Jung’s lame excuses for dropping her (even telling her at one point that he’d displaced an attraction to Freud’s daughter onto Sabina — how nice), the coldness of his self-justification to Sabina’s mother when she found out via letter from Emma Jung (basically: no fee was charged, so it wasn’t really that bad — but if you wish to discuss it, that’ll be ten francs an hour)…. The shocking, manipulative sadism of Jung’s repeated betrayals of Spielrein might make difficult reading for those who revere him, even granting that they took place before Jung’s “confrontation with the unconscious.”

The book also sheds light on the human background of Jung’s theories about the anima. Plenty here for feminist critics.

Kerr also makes a convincing case for Freud’s affair with his sister-in-law Minna, although this reader is not entirely sold on it (allow me to keep at least one post-doctoral illusion!). The affair matters because of Kerr’s claim that Jung and Freud indulged in implied threats of mutual sexual blackmail toward the end of their correspondence (I won’t show them yours if you don’t show them mine).

I can see after reading this book why some of Jung’s late letters to Freud alternate between aggression and what seems like paranoia. For six years I ran men’s groups and often noticed that clients with a guilty conscience, especially about having had affairs, lived in the constant fear that someone would tell their current partner about it. Some of what Jung wrote to Freud is consistent with a man who knows his lover (Spielrein) has sent a full confession to a friend and colleague (Freud) but does NOT know just how full a confession it was. Jung’s chronic uncertainty about what Freud did or did not know must have added tremendous stress to the ongoing battle of wills and egos. But the submergence of the gifted if borderline-prone Spielrein is the real tragedy in this unamusing comedy of errors.

This book is not only interesting reading, but a good history of psychoanalysis and its pioneers — very handy for a psychology course. Includes an index, an extensive bibliography, and a handy bibliographic essay explaining just where the author got what, and why.


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