I came to David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" with an eager anticipation that he would somehow conjur up the juiciness of "Dead Ringers," his wicked 1988 examination of twin libidinous gynocologists (both played by Jeremy Irons!), and somehow top himself.
But, no, "A Dangerous Mind" in which the ever-adventurous Cronenberg traces the birth of psychoanalysis (and, by extension, the curious pleasures of sexual sadomasochism) isn't the playful exercise that I expected. It is a bit more literal-minded - and, surprisingly, middle-brow - dealing as it does with the protégé/mentor relationship of Carl Jung (a watchful Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (an astonishing Vigo Mortensen), before they became professinal frenemies, and the interesting case study, the hugely neurotic Sabina Spielrein (an aptly feral and theatrical Keira Knightley), who came between them.
Sabina preferred punishing sex and found a willing partner in her psychoanalyst, Jung, but their taboo sex acts (always staged fully clothed) come across as curiously discreet and a tad dainty. (Rarely has sex seemed so obligatory.) Still, it was enough for Sabina to pursue a career in psychoanalysis herself, verifying the suspicion that, egad, most shrinks themselves are possibly damanged in the head.
Christopher Hampton adapted his play, "The Talking Cure," (a title that says all, in the case of this movie), working in elements from John Kerr's book, "A Most Dangerous Method." The talk - and there's a lot of it - is both super intelligent and kinda filthy, with the tony characters managing to work the words "penis" and "vagina" into most conversations.
Reading this stuff on paper might be slightly arousing but, on screen, it all seems, well, impotent. But I've a hunch that's exactly the point the provocateur Cronenberg wanted to make. Still, I liked his film.