A Splendid Cronenberg (and without caffeine)

Source: El País

The new work by the Canadian director is received in Venice with an enthusiastic ovation.

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Everybody knows that David Cronenberg is very much his own man, always a very disturbing guy capable of transforming any topic into a nightmare and of rummaging in places that mortals simply ignore. The Canadian director has always been a gentleman of extremes, an elegant and at the same time morbid man who takes you to hell in a couple of shots, without any effort. That´s why this morning, at the end of the screening for the critics of his latest film, A Dangerous Method, the ovation (enthusiastic) was mixed with the faces of those who have seen a film with the reels mixed up. A Dangerous Method has some of Cronenberg´s tics although he uses them in a light way, but on the other hand, it looks like a film from someone interested only and exclusively in proving that cinema is something belonging to a chosen few.

So he deconstructs in perfect chronological order the unhealthy relationship between Doctor Freud (that Doctor Freud) and Doctor Carl Jung (that Carl Jung) with the excuse of a lady who is a bit lacking in regard to her mental health. The impact of the young woman, later a patient, in the life of both men becomes for Cronenberg a portrait of vices and virtues (the former rather than the latter) where the director contrasts the exquisite epistolary relationship of the two eminent men, letters back and forth, with the true world of deceit and deceptions that arises when two brilliant minds compete underhandedly to impose their own theories.

On the way, a story of manners with hardly anything off-key but filmed with passionate asepsis by the clinical eye of Cronenberg. Magnificent actors, with a spectacular Viggo Mortensen in his approach to Doctor Freud: a kind of cannibal, brandishing a fake nose, who eats up someone as great as Michael Fassbender, who seems much more relaxed when the frame can breath without being in Mortensen´s shadow.

Heavyweight Characters

Fassbender's Jung is timid, diffident, until the lady of the hour appears and turns his world upside down. Then, another Jung appears, belt in hand, keen for giving the cane to the woman he loves, falling in love with a patient without knowing that she is going to drag him through the mud. On the other side of the table, Mortensen's Freud, stunning in his containment, is capable of telling you (if it were necessary) that he just strangled a neighbor's baby without his hands trembling. The two of them provide for Keira Knightley a setting adequate to her character (the most complicated in the film), and despite the immense effort it takes to portray a sadomasochist with a brain the size of a watermelon, the actress ends up - almost - up to the challenge.

It's true that in the closeups it's difficult to associate the overacting with the supposed restraint that the film imposes and the question remains whether Knightley was following orders or wanted to put more into the role. Whatever the case, the British actress hoisted her sails in the second half and there are few "buts" about her splendid (and tormented) psychiatrist in the making. The thing is that Cronenberg, even when he seems less himself than usual, continues being an exceptional director. If that's the message, we've gotten it.
Last edited: 5 October 2011 10:23:00
© El País.