Sony Classics will release A Dangerous Method, David Cronenberg's intriguing and complex drama about Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, in November 2011, after premiering at the Venice, Toronto, and New York Film Fests.
Casting, which is always crucial in Cronenberg's films, became all the more essential now. Says producer Jeremy Thomas: "This is an exploration of the human mind through characters that are young. Jung is 30, Freud is 50, Sabina is 20, and Otto Gross is early 30s.
Michael Fassbender (Jung), Viggo Mortensen (Freud), Keira Knightley (Sabina), and Vincent Cassel (Gross) were all actors that were desired by director David Cronenberg for these roles, and they were all magnificent choices."
A Dangerous Method is the third successful collaboration of Viggo Mortensen and David Cronenberg, after A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, for which Mortensen received his first and only Best Actor Oscar nomination.
Mortensen plays the role of the iconic Sigmund Freud. As usual, the actor immersed himself completely in his study of the psychologist. Approaching the role with the meticulous level of research, for which he is known in the industry, Mortensen visited the place of Freud's birth, his homes in Vienna and London, as well as the Burgholzli. He read Freud's books, studied photographs and footage to get the right look and mannerisms, and even tracked down the cigars that Freud smoked.
Indeed, Mortensen's study of Freud included his dress, as he explains: "Freud continued to dress in the same way for many decades, a nineteenth century way of dressing. He wrote German the way German was written in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and he never really changed."
Mortensen stresses the "formality to Freud's writing and to his self-presentation. In the way Freud wrote his letters to Jung, there was always a high standard of intelligence in the discourse. But in conversation, Freud was witty and personable. And all of that is fun to play. Jung is a very, very clever man, but very different from Freud.
"In his school of thought, Freud believed it was important to tell patients the truth of their situation, and that they had to deal with it.
"In contrast, Jung felt it important to explain to people the process of how they had become who they were, and to help them on the path to change."
Michael Fassbender, who plays Jung, expands on some of the differences between the two men: "Jung was more open to experiences. For example, he was influenced by the planet and the idea of communicating with spirits, whereas Freud was very much set on one form of psychology: This idea that all neuroses essentially spring from a sexual origin. Jung had a problem with that, that it shouldn't be so exclusive."
Mortensen felt that Freud's methods varied from Jung's as he wanted the patient to understand their problem rather than offering a potential solution. He elaborates: "Freud was basically saying, 'We're not really necessarily going to cure people. That can't be the goal. The goal is to listen and understand, in order to help them understand why they do things, why they feel things, why things are as they are, in order to accept it."
It was their differences in approach, opinions, and age that Mortensen found fascinaring: "What interested me was to see Jung when he was 29, and Freud when he was 50, in the prime of his career and his intellectual strength. A time when these men were not so familiar to us, because they were still forming their theories and bonded through a mentoring relationship. Jung thought of Freud as his father figure, and in fact called him by that name many times in letters."
Sigmund Freud was driven out of Vienna by the Nazis. He died of cancer in London in 1939.