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A Dangerous Method: The Birth Of Psychoanalysis
This is a film chronicling the relationship between the two titans of psychoanalysis: Sigmund Freud (Mortenson) and Carl Jung (Fassbender), and the woman that brought them together – Sabina Spielrein (Knightley).
Jung has just started putting Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis to the test, theories that even Freud hasn’t tested yet, when a patient by the name of Sabina Spielrein comes his way. Under his care, she’s able to get over the sexual and psychological scars inflicted on her by her father’s beatings. As a guinea pig, it’s her case that brings Jung and Freud together and gradually this reverent student/mentor relationship starts to sour. Jung wants to open up the field and explore more metaphysical aspects while Freud clings to its core beliefs in an effort to have this fledgling science taken seriously. Their relationship is tested even more when Jung starts an affair with Spielrein, who is now studying psychoanalysis and is showing great promise; favouring Freud’s ideas over Jung’s.
Acting wise, the film takes a while to hit its stride. Keira Knightley is rather difficult to recognize, disguised by her hunched posture, gloriously weird facial tics and bugging eyes. The things she does with her face are rather formidable and quite scary. Her character calms down considerably though after Jung treats her and she relaxes into being a less neurotic character and a highly respected psychoanalyst in her own right. She’s the most exciting thing about the film and the only character with an aura of unpredictability around her.
Freud and Jung in contrast are stodgy and stiff, though Mortenson and Fassbender do a great job of showing the dynamics of their relationship and the curve that it takes. Their relationship starts off with a star-struck Jung reaching out to Freud; Jung soon becomes Freud’s star pupil who then rebels when he starts to feel confined by Freud’s lack of imagination. It’s a classic rebellion-against-authority subplot but instead of emphasizing the split in their relationship, the film chooses to showcase the hurt and abandonment that they both feel as a result.
The film was adapted from a play that was initially based on a book and its theatre background is rather evident. The film has a static feel to it partly because it’s heavy on the dialogue but also because of the camera work. It feels weighted, there isn’t much movement to it and the score is quite sparse and doesn’t inject much life into the proceedings either.
More a romance and study of power than a history of psychoanalysis, the film manages to be reasonably entertaining and very well acted, though psychology buffs will probably find themselves wishing for more substance to the storyline.
She wakes up from her coma to a husband who she doesn’t remember and parents who are overjoyed that she’s forgotten about their dispute. While Paige’s parents try to bring her back to the way of life that she’d rebelled against, Leo tries to help her remember why she’d left all that behind in the first place. Fighting for a wife who doesn’t remember him and is a completely different person than the one he knew, Leo tries to get her to fall in love with him again.
The film rarely gets unbearably cheesy, setting it apart from your run of the mill Sparks adaptation. It gets mushy, emotional and sappy, but it’s more likely to make you smile than roll your eyes. Leo’s pain and heartbreak combined with Paige’s family’s delight at having their daughter back, gives the film a level of grit that keeps it from becoming overly cloying. However, the secret of the film’s success is the leads, who have great chemistry and manage to pass off some of the cheesiness as bearable.
Titled from a popular term which describes the early transfer of a young offender from a juvenile detention facility to an adult penitentiary, Starred Up is by no means an easy watch. However, as much as it is difficult to digest at times, there is a certain poetic beauty behind its seemingly violent and destructive quality that makes it difficult to look away from.
Shot within the walls of an abandoned Belfast prison, the film opens with troubled nineteen-year-old Eric Love (O’Connell) undergoing an embarrassing admittance process, involving a complete body strip down, as he’s transferred into an adult reformatory.
Immediately marked as a “single cell, high risk” type detainee, it doesn’t take long for Eric – whose frequent and violent outbursts got him relocated there in the first place – to stir up trouble and make enemies both with fellow inmates and security guards.
After a mistaken attack on another inmate lands the young delinquent into the disciplinary hands of the law, Eric is soon approached – and rescued – by the in-house therapist, Oliver Braumer (Friend), who believes that he can help the young man rehabilitate.
Unfortunately, getting to the root of Eric’s problems - and getting him to open up - is no easy task and Oliver - together with the other rehabilitating convicts - often find themselves the targets of both verbal and physical abuse. To top it off, Eric has to find a way to learn to share the walls of his new confinements with his estranged father, Nev (Mendelsohn), who is currently serving a life-sentence in the same prison.
Penned by first-time screenwriter Jonathan Asser – a former prison psychotherapist whose own experience with the British penal-system adds a hefty dose of authenticity and realism to the film – Starred Up, told through a series of wordless and violent expositions, is fuelled with gripping intensity which is hard to shake off. Relying on action, rather than words, the uniqueness – and the heart - of the story lies with the father-son narrative, whose bonding difficulties are depicted through the oppressiveness of life in prison.
Contributing to the movie’s relentless and uncompromising approach to despair and violence, O’Connell – mostly known for his role in the British TV-series Skins and recently seen as the lead in Angelina Jolie’s war-drama Unbroken – is an absolute standout; feral and unpredictable, his performance carries the film, while Mendelsohn is equally superb as a man whose persona and motives are seemingly hard to read.
Powerful, emotional but never too sentimental, Starred Up is a true British-prison drama classic whose quietly yielding power and passion for storytelling will leave you feeling captivated and moved.