Dangerous Method: Cronenberg's Freud-Jung Drama

David Cronenberg’s eagerly-awaited “A Dangerous Method,” starring Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen, plays at the Venice and Toronto Film Fests and will be released by Sony Classics in November 2011.

Trailer: www.emanuellevy.com/?attachment_id=45177

Christopher Hampton, the screenwriter of the new David Cronenberg drama, “A Dangerous Method,” about the relationship between Freud and Jung, had always had a keen interested in psychoanalysis.  Thus, he spent a lot of time researching the relationship between Jung, Freud, and Sabina, visiting the Burgholzli hospital in Zurich where he read her case history.


These intelligent figures greatly appealed to Hampton: “These people were pioneers and psychoanalysis was a revolutionary idea. It opened many closets and revealed many taboos.  At the end of the 19th century, great currents of new ideas were brought into being, which opened up a whole new way of thinking about society.”

Hampton went on to develop the material into a stage play, titled “The Talking Cure,” which had a successful run at the National Theatre in London.  Ralph Fiennes played Jung, a character now embodied by the fabulous, fast-rising star, Michael Fassbender.

A few years later, Cronenberg asked Hampton to adapt the play into a new screenplay for him to direct.

Cronenberg recalls:” In Christopher Hampton’s original play I knew I had found a rich vein to mine for the screen.  This tale of emotional variance, overshadowed by the portents of WWI, promised an insight into two intense and inextricably interwoven relationships.  The fact that the characters were gifted, true-life figures, and that the triangle of Jung, Freud, and Sabina resulted in the birth of modern psychoanalysis, made it all the more tantalizing to me.”

Hampton began developing his play, weaving historical events and quotes from the real-life personalities into a dramatic story of a debate of ideas. 

Cronenberg then took the project to his friend producer Jeremy Thomas, who’s know for working with individual, even eccentric filmmakers.  Thomas had previously teamed with Cronenberg to make the critically acclaimed and challenging “Crash” and “Naked Lunch.”

For Thomas the appeal of the material was immediate: “The exciting pairing of director Cronenberg with the playwright-scribe Christopher Hampton would be too rare an event for me to miss.  The opportunity ton work with David again on a project of such note seemed a natural fit with this very interesting clash of ideas on screen.  There is enormous amount of dueling in the dialogue which I though could be very attractive to watch when played  by very good actors, and have an impact on an audience, when directed by a wonderful director with a magnificent score (by Oscar-winning Howard Shore).

Hampton approached with relish the opportunity to work with Cronenberg, a director he admires: “David has a unique combination of extremely cool objectivity and pretty violent engagement.  A really original combination that fist this story very well, because it’s a story about people who are attempting to operate the rules of civilization and steer their patients towards ‘the norm,’ whilst becoming increasingly aware that there is no norm and they themselves, like all of us in certain respects, live right out on the wild fringes and have to cope with these contradictions as best we can.  David is a wonderful director to encompass these contradictions and make sense of them.”

Cronenberg says he was captivated by the idea of directing a film about three charismatic figures from history, including Sabina, a relatively unknown figure who greatly influenced both men professionally.

For Cronenberg “Sabina was someone who contributed hugely to the theories of both men, something that no one knew until a cache of letters was discovered, her letters to and from Freud and Jung, and their letters to her.  Their passion came through their articulation, their theories and their abstract thoughts.  They were quite fascinating people and it’s a fantastic story.”

For Thomas, this little-known story was one he knew he had to bring to the screen: “I have always been drawn to make unusual stories that often involve extreme behavior.”