Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Dangerous Method

I want to comment on your entire list, Brandon, but before I do that, I'd like to catch a few of the films on your list that I haven't seen. A Dangerous Method was one of those films, until I finished it last night.

Because I didn't hate the film, and because it's number ten on your list, this is hardly an attack. The only reason it might seem like one is because you rank Cronenberg's latest higher than Malik's latest. But you probably knew this would come eventually, and it already came in the form of Jeff's response to your list. I'll try to move away from comparing the two films because you've addressed your feelings for The Tree of Life on more than one occasion, and recently. Instead, I'll focus my argument on the idea that A Dangerous Method is simply an okay film that's only honorable mention-worthy at best.

After I finished the film, I took a moment to consider how I really felt about it. One comparison that instantly came to mind was Atonement. I made that connection unaware of the fact that Christopher Hampton wrote both screenplays. So maybe we're getting into Eric Roth territory, because honestly, the only issue I have with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the script (there a few moments that I really love, though). But that's a cop-out, I guess. If I'm not crazy about a film, blame needs to be put on the director because it's his/her job to make the film interesting as well.

Regardless, that's how I view A Dangerous Method; I attribute its failings to the screenwriter, because like Atonement, there were some interesting scenes here and there, but as the credits started to roll, my ultimate reaction was "so what?" There are no memorable scenes and the film failed in establishing a connection between audience and characters, and characters and each other. For a film that tackles psychoanalysis, an intimate study of the human psyche, I felt the film lacked intimacy. And whether you agree with the respective ideas of Jung/Freud/Spielrein or not, the fact remains that these three people impacted each other significantly. But in the film, you're told this and are hardly shown it.

A Dangerous Method is 99 minutes long; it should've been longer. In fact, I was a little surprised to find that it was so short, given that biopics are usually unbearably long. The film jumps through the years too quickly without fully rooting itself in anything.

The subject matter does interest me, though. I like psychology. And while I don't necessarily agree with everything Carl Jung wrote, I love listening to ideas on the mind and human behavior. There are moments in the film that raise plenty of interesting questions and feature intriguing back-and-forths. Also, the history lesson contained in the film doesn't seem too glib or anything.

In terms of individual performances, I enjoyed Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, and Vincent Cassel. Similarly to you Brandon, I feel that performances can rescue a film. In this case, the performances were good, but all three of those guys have done better. The scenes with Cassel and Fassbender were probably my favorite, though. The film gained momentum when they met, but that momentum was as transient as Cassel's character.

With Keira Knightly, I vacillate. There are moments when she seems quite brilliant, and then there are moments when I felt she was trying too hard. But that's what you get with Knightly, unless she's hanging out with pirates, she always brings her A-game. So in that sense, I'll always respect her and say that's she's talented. But I suppose I would say that Knightly helps the film, now that I think about it.

With David Cronenberg, I'm more familiar with his recent work. Eastern Promises and A History of Violence were both impressive and made my top ten list for those respective years. But I can't really comment on what this film means in the full scope of his career. One thought I had while watching ADM was that I would've liked Cronenberg to direct another 2011 Michael Fassbender film, Jane Eyre. It probably would've greatly improved that film, but that's a different discussion for a different day. Clearly Cronenberg knows how to do his job skillfully, but I wanted more from him in this case, and from the rest of the film in general.

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