Written by John Logan
Directed by David Cronenberg
Every once in a while, even your favorite artist makes a total stinker that you just can’t stand behind. Unfortunately, this is that film for David Cronenberg, one of my favorite filmmakers, who just misfired on every level with this film. The only true success is Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung, and that’s all because Fassbender is easily one of the best actors of his generation. With small glasses and a simple mustache, he disappears into the role fully. However, the same can’t be said about Mortensen, who gained about 30 lbs and grew a large beard, but still sticks out as Viggo Mortensen, rather than becoming Sigmund Freud.
The absolute worst showing of the film, however, is left to Keira Knightley. Now, I don’t typically hate her work, and in fact, I even like her in quite a few different films. Here, though, she comes off worse than an over-acting high school drama student, screaming her lines (in order to seem mentally unstable), cry-talking throughout most of the film, and using what is by far the worst Russian accent I’ve ever heard an actor attempt. I would’ve rather heard her inaccurate, but true, British accent, rather than the wandering accent she attempts here.
Accents and acting aside, this film is just plain boring. Anyone familiar with the work of Jung or Freud knows what will be covered in this film, and it is covered in very small portions, mostly focusing on the relationship between Knightley’s character and Jung. The big meeting of Freud and Jung really isn’t all it is cracked up to be. While the meeting was historical because of the work they did together, or due to each other, but that work is glossed over to feature their personal lives.
Unfortunately, everything in their personal lives is mostly boring, even painful at certain times. Fassbender shines in every scene he’s in, it’s just too bad the plot gives him very little to do. The structure of the film is a mess, jumping years ahead with no real reason, other than to show that Cronenberg was dedicated to staying accurate to the lives of the two men. Other than that, there seems to be very little motivation for the time jumps, and little motivation for most of the film in general.
The only aspect that remains decidedly Cronenbergian is the topic of sex and its relation to the rest of human behavior. Of course the cinematography is crisp, the locations look good and accurate, and the costumes are well made and interesting. However, the fact that it’s more about Jung and his dysfunction as a doctor, instead of the relationship between Jung and Freud is rather disappointing, but it does at least cover what led Jung to his own path, and it showed Freud’s ultimate insecurity as a man. These aspects don’t save the movie though. If you still are dedicated to seeing it, at least save your money and don’t waste your time in a theater.