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It’s a remarkable sequence, and Fassbender is superb as he struggles with his professional commitments, his marriage and his basic and longstanding desire to make love to Spielrein.
Eventually he pushes aside his qualms and begins a heady affair with his former -- but now cured -- patient. It’s a move that violates the doctor/patient relationship, and it leads to an ethical clash between Jung and his far more patrician college Freud.
The fight between the two learned men, which hinges ultimately on Freud’s inability to ever allow his former student to become his colleague (his equal, in other words) eventually leads to a complete break between the two men, and a rupture in psychoanalysis that would endure for decades.
But oddly enough, it’s in the chemistry and the philosophical battles between Fassbender and Mortensen that A Dangerous Method really comes to life.
In their own time both men were conscious that their groundbreaking work would be profoundly influential, and they both wanted to guard its legacy and ensure it could continue. That passion led to a rigidity of mind in Freud that Jung rebelled against, over and over.
But Jung too had his blind spots. In the beginning he was bourgeois and conventional in his outlook, a product of his class and period, and he refused to acknowledge that some of the hostility to Freud’s talking cure method had its origins in hostility to Freud’s ethic background (the Nazis eventually drove him out of Europe).
The action of A Dangerous Method is taken directly between the correspondence between Jung, Freud and Spielrein and so it achieves its sense of authenticity directly from the source.
But Fassbender’s turn as the tortured and blazingly brilliant young Jung is the greatest part of the film. He plumbs the emotional core of his character in a way that surpasses his co-stars, and in the process he saves this slow moving but still quietly compelling film from becoming a biopic about a titan of the 20th century.
It’s not giving too much away to say that the ending is as bittersweet as we begin to anticipate early on. The collusion of personalities, theories, desires and broken hearts make it a dead cert almost from the beginning.
It’s Fassbender’s all-electric performance that will be remembered. He’s already the kind of actor that simply can’t fail.