On the subject of psychoanalysis - well, I've never been there, you understand, but I'm an admirer both of Freud and of Jung, and I'm quite sure that I’ve learned many profound things from the writings of both that, taken together, are not exactly complementary. As such I have waited keenly for a film of The Talking Cure, Christopher Hampton’s play about the great Austrian, the great Swiss, and Ms Sabina Spielrein. Now that film is nigh, under the title A Dangerous Method, which references a book by John Kerr that was (as far as I know – I’ve not read it) the first to take seriously the importance of Spielrein to the history of psychoanalysis on the grounds that she was first a patient of Jung’s and subsequently a disciple of Freud’s. As I understand it, what Kerr didn’t know when he wrote A Very Dangerous Method was that Spielrein and Jung had been lovers during his treatment of her.
Hence the special drama of this story, for which Hampton was the ideal dramatist – Freud and Jung as mentor-and-protégé pioneers in the fathoming of the unconscious; Jung becoming the errant son who succumbed to sex with a patient, then proceeded to an occult-spiritual philosophy that alienated him yet further from rational, disapproving ‘father’ Freud; and Spielrein as the woman who first occasioned this intellectual dispute, then went on to make a discerning contribution to it.
The richness of all this is obvious. Is it ‘a movie’ though? I’ll be intrigued to see whether Cronenberg follows Hampton’s play in jumping forward and revealing to the audience at the halfway stage what was Spielrein’s eventual fate. It’s also worth noting that Paul Schrader, an equally fine piece of ‘casting’ for this project, tried to write it as a play for the National Theatre in 1982 at the prompting of Peter Hall, but could never quite finish his script. (‘It’s such a great story’, Schrader told Kevin Jackson for the excellent book Schrader on Schrader, ‘that it took me a long time to realize that it just wasn’t working.’)
For Cronenberg Sabina Spielrein is played by Keira Knightley who also gets top billing over Viggo Mortensen (Freud) and Michael Fassbender (Jung). For me as for many viewers, this is a small matter of concern, but presumably for many other viewers it will be why they turn out for this movie. So, we shall see… Here at any rate is the trailer.