Although some still uphold his rep as the baron of body anarchy, David Cronenberg’s films get under the skin via ideas, not just gore. So it is with this well-upholstered chamber drama about Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.
Cronenberg teases a droll dissection of mind-body divides from Christopher Hampton’s play
The Talking Cure
. The talkiness and lack of danger may seem atypical for the director, but its elegant surface ripples with Cronenbergian conceits.
Sustaining his strike-rate after
A History Of Violence
, Viggo Mortensen delivers another charismatic big man as Freud, ethically upstanding father figure to the younger Jung, a brilliant but morally lax psychoanalyst essayed suavely by Michael Fassbender.
The pair juggle depth with levity, lending
a welcome fleetness, like a bearded bromance via
Especially when they stumble over Sabina (Keira Knightley), first patient then S&M lover to a boundary-breaking Jung.
The film stumbles here, Knightley eliciting unwitting mirth for her arsenal of tics and cod-Russian accent. If it’s not deal-breaking, it’s because her performance grows as Sabina evolves, both as an analyst and counterpoint to Jung’s psychological fragility. Granted, their affair offers sparse sparks given the extra-marital hanky-spanking involved.
Intellectual sparks fly, though; Cronenberg-friendly ideas including the limits of pragmatism, value of neurosis and society’s contract with repression. The latter idea spurts from Vincent Cassel in a tasty cameo as Otto Gross, sexual freedom fucker. He’s
’s update of
’ (1975) sympathetic sex slugs: conclusive proof that dirty Dave’s subversive mitts are all over the fine furnishings here.