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.