It’s not that the topics in question – the founding principles of psychology, desire vs repression, whether Jung should really be shagging his patient (Knightley) – don’t merit the screen-time. It’s just that this stiff prestige picture could be a radio play and all you’d miss is Keira making ugly in the hope of an Oscar. There’s far too much talent involved for it to misfire badly, but it’s still Cronenberg’s least involving work since 1993’s M. Butterfly.
For all the psychologising we only get rudimentary portraits of Jung and Freud as men, while Knightley’s histrionic performance verges on the embarrassing. As a child, her character, we learn, liked to sit on one foot, simultaneously withholding and releasing her excrement. Somehow her facial expressions suggest this exact movement throughout.
It’s a pity because there are some juicy Cronenbergian concepts here – how “destructive forces can also be creative ones” (see Shivers, The Fly, The Dead Zone); how “not to repress yourself is to release all kinds of dangerous forces” (Videodrome, Dead Ringers, Crash). But they’re endlessly analysed rather than dramatised, and when lined up against the director’s earlier, no-holds-barred efforts, A Dangerous Method only talks the talk. Hide