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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.
Following her biographical documentary of the late playwright, Andrea Dunbar, in the 2010's The Arbor, Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant is by no means an easy watch. Inspired by Oscar Wilde’s story of the same name, the latest effort from the British writer-director comes as a distressing and soulful throwback to a time when life was unforgiving and growing up was no easy task.
Set in the abandoned industrial fields of Northern England, The Selfish Giant follows the lives and shenanigans of thirteen-year-old, Arbor (Chapman), and his less courageous best pal, Swifty (Thomas). Arbor suffers from what appears to be an Oppositional Defiant Disorder and as a result, he is feisty, unpredictable and often uncontrollable, while Swifty, despite his towering presence, is the more placid of the two and tends to serve as the only voice of reason.
Growing on the impoverished streets of Bradford hasn’t been easy and the boys, whose unbreakable bond is the only things that keeps them going, are desperate to eke out a living and somehow offer a helping hand to their equally struggling families. After being expelled for fighting school-yard bullies, the boys come across some stolen copper wiring cables – which they recover from the nearby railway tracks – and decide to sell it to iffy local scrap-yard owner, Kitten (Gilder).
After their successful transaction, the boys are quickly lured into working for Kitten full-time as scrap metal collectors. However, Arbor is unfulfilled and soon persuades Swifty, who begins taking a liking into Kitten’s racing horse, into joining him in new – and seemingly dangerous –heists.
Much of the film’s success lies with its two unbelievably likable first-time stars, whose brutally honest and deeply-layered performance offer an incredible amount of weight to what is a pretty straightforward story. Chapman, as the foul-mouthed, thick-accented Arbor is utterly infectious, while Thomas, as his taller and softer shadow, is just as compelling.
The sun never shines in Barnard’s The Selfish Giant and there’s a lot of feelings of hardship o be found at its core; but thanks to the wonderful cinematography – where a blue-grey palate dominates over proceedings – and captivating performances, there’s also very particular beauty, and hope, to be found below the desolation.