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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Viggo Mortensen is Freud

This week's movie rental was the R rated A Dangerous Method directed by David Cronenberg and starring Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, and Keira Knightley. As Wikipedia states ...

Dangerous Method is a 2011 Canadian historical film .... The screenplay was adapted by Academy Award-winning writer Christopher Hampton from his 2002 stage play The Talking Cure, which was based on the 1993 non-fiction book by John Kerr, A Most Dangerous Method: The story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein ..... Set on the eve of World War I, A Dangerous Method is based on the turbulent relationships between Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, Sigmund Freud, founder of the discipline of psychoanalysis, and Sabina Spielrein, initially a patient of Jung and later a physician and one of the first female psychoanalysts.

I probably wouldn't have rented the movie if Viggo hadn't been in it, but that's not to say I don't like Freud - I once read a biography of him, The Passions of the Mind: A Novel of Sigmund Freud - he was a really interesting person.

The movie's plot: as Freud and Jung usher in a new way of looking at mental illness, Spielrein, with "hysteria" caused by childhood sexual problems, becomes Jung's patient, then becomes both his student and his lover, and when things don't turn out well, she becomes Freud's patient, and finally an analyst herself. The interwaeving of the relationships between Freud, Jung, Spielrein, their families and their professional peers made a joke of transparency. It's ironic that these people in the vanguard of the demystification of sexual and non-sexual relationships actually had relationships at least if not more screwed up than anyone else's.

Jung finds in her [Spielrein] a kindred spirit with a unique perspective as her self-awareness sharpens, and their attraction deepens in what was already well known at the time as transference .... Jung finally begins their affair, and their relations become even more tangled as he becomes her advisor to her dissertation .... After his attempt to confine their relationship again to doctor and patient, she appeals to Freud for his professional help, and forces Jung to tell Freud the truth about their relationship ....

Freud uses his knowledge of the relationship to bully Jung, who is planning to publish new theories quite different from Freud's. Jung's theories are heavily influenced by the theme of Sabina's dissertation but he does not cite her in publication, acknowledging her only in private, and Freud does the same .... Shortly after Freud downplays the new ideas expressed by the Fraulein Doctor in the local meeting of the new psychoanalytic society in Vienna, she marries another Russian doctor, and leaves both men behind her. Neither man acknowledged publicly how she influenced them, for fear that their peers, and the public, would recognize what had happened between them. Although the small community of analysts and patients was quite incestuous, both intellectually and sexually, they were quite reasonably afraid that the radical new practice of psychoanalysis would be condemned by a less enlightened public if their methods, and their madness, were truly known.
- Wikipedia

I didn't care much for the movie, but Roger Ebert liked it more than I did and gave it three and a half stars. For those interested, there was a recent post at the NYT's philosophy blog that mentioned the movie and the worth of Freud's idea of therapy - Freud’s Radical Talking. And here's the trailer ...


Blogger Dina said...

Oi, from the trailer, I think I'm not ready for this one.
My friend and neighbor just returned from Vienna where she buried her artist mother, who was the last living patient of Freud and as such became a celebrity among psychoanalist circles.

11:58 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Dina,

Yeah, in some ways I wish I hadn't watched it - I'd rather see films that make me feel good about being a person, not appalled ;)

How interesting about your friend's mother! At the end of the movie, it said that Freud was forced to leave Vienna by the Nazis and that the woman analyst was actually killed by them.

12:16 AM  

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