There is a hope that Director David Cronenberg wouldn’t turn Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud into the archetypes they’ve come to define, and he definitely does not, thankfully; it’s the sharpest detour from his usual style since his standout drama “A History of Violence”. It features some great period costume details and a series of performances from loads of versatile talent, including Michael Fassbender as Jung; a psychotic storm of a performance from Kiera Knightly and some slightly subdued acting from Viggo Mortenson as Freud.
The movie is pulsating with humanity and compassion, yet still extremely engaging. It involves a patient turned-affair between Jung and Sabina, and the anger and self-hatred that ensues following the trajectory of said affair; a sort of growth in Jung’s own person, a feeling of a massive hole in the world, an absence of any real answers. Letters are sent conspicuously between Freud, Sabina, and Jung. The characters interweaving stories combined with their well-known sensibilities pulls the narrative briskly forward.
The different schools of thought between the two famous psychologists fuels a sort of competitive tension throughout. Freud says at one point, as Jung and he dwell on the deck of a ship, that he had a dream. But when Jung asks him about it, he refuses to tell him it in fear of it diminishing his authority, as he is usually the one saying what is and isn’t wrong with a person. It reveals Freud’s desire to make psychoanalysis legitimate by not following Jung’s phenomenological theories, or fairy tales, which he felt would make psychoanalysis look unscientific.
The movie was wrongfully cut off from the Oscar parade, I would say. It was very much one of my favorite films of 2011. A deep, intellectual study of psychological and sexual obsessions, as well as an enchanting showcase for Kiera Knightley’s ample dramatic abilities.