It would be churlish to complain that a film about the parents of psychoanalysis was too talky, so I won’t. The film’s built around the possible, as I understand it, sexual relationship between Carl Jung and one of his patients, Sabine Spielrein, superbly played by Keira Knightley. Jung’s infidelity was prompted by Otto Gross, a brilliantly demented Vincent Cassel, and Jung’s rather prim wife (no excuse of course). However, the film actually seems to be about the schism between Freud and Jung and I’m not clear what the supposed sexual liaison had to do with this. Jung’s immorality may have confirmed to Freud that he wasn’t ‘fit’ to be his heir apparent, but it was Jung’s dabbling in mysticism that actually ‘did’ for him.
So I’m not sure what the film is doing, but it does it extremely well. Immaculately shot, by Cronenburg’s regular cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, excellent performance (Mortenson’s Freud is exceptional), beautiful locations; overall an amenable film. But I expect more from Cronenburg.
I am grateful to the film for suggesting that Spielrein was an important influence on the development of psychoanalysis; women are usually rubbed out of history, men’s fragile ego’s can’t seem to share the glory. It’s interesting that the hysteria in women, that the psychoanalysts treated, no longer exists. Presumably this is due to the advances in feminism so women are more likely to be treated as human’s rather than children to be put on a pedestal and to be screwed occasionally.
In an interview in Sight & Sound Cronenburg says that recently advances in MRI scans suggests that there’s a lot of brain activity that cannot be explained and so Freud, and his subsconscious, may be about to be proved correct.
A friend regularly complains about Knightley’s constant pouting; after this, Knightley’s gurning will have to be added to the list. It’s quite exceptional that a star should expose herself in this way. It’s quite a startling opening to the film; the most Cronenburgian moment.