A Dangerous Method

I finally watched A Dangerous Method – a little movie about psychoanalyst  Karl Jung and how he helped contribute to the growing study of talk therapy towards the beginning of the 1900s.  Spoiler alert for anyone who doesn’t want details of this movie revealed to them.

The movie opens with a crazy lady being brought against her will in a carriage to this beautiful compound where Jung does his experimental work.  Now, when I say crazy, I mean fucking bitch-be-cool crazy.  This crazy Russian lady and real person, Sabina Spielrein, is played very hauntingly and skillfully by Keira Knightly.

Jung immediately takes a liking to this woman and tells his wife that he wants to begin his experimental treatment on her – psychoanalysis.

He sets up two chairs facing the same direction, has her sit in the front one, and he explains that he’s going to ask her questions while sitting in the chair behind her, so as not to distract her, even though all it does is freak her out at first.

These scenes of talk therapy were fascinating to me, because the woman presented as a person who had been terrorized as a child and was now suffering from severe PTSD, and she was hysterical to boot.  Her lower jaw jutted out, her body jerked and shuddered, and her uterus was clearly stuck in her madulla ablongotta.  I had her diagnosed after a few short minutes. *wipes dust from hands*

She confessed to being beaten by her father.  Made sense.  The kicker was that she confessed to being sexually excited by it, even at the early age of four.  (Is this even possible?, you ask.  In Crazytown, Switzerland in the time of the Great Chauvinists of Yore, they left no O-face unturned, I say.)

Enter Jung’s friend and mentor, the father of psychoanalysis everyone loves to hate: (Viggo Mortenson as) Sigmund Freud.  Based on one story involving Patient Crazypants and feces that I will not go into detail about (you’re welcome), he diagnosed her as being stuck in the anal stage of development (sound familiar?) and prescribed some good, old fashioned raunchy S&M sexytimes with her therapist.

To further make his point, Freud referred a client to Jung, and this client (also a therapist himself, pictured rubbing blow on his gums before strolling into an appointment) spends his therapy hour talking about how freeing it is to have sex with his clients and how Jung should do it too.  All the cool therapists were doing it, apparently.  Pun intended.

“I think that Freud’s obsession with sex probably has a great deal to do with the fact that he never gets any.”

Sidenote:  I went to a Jungian therapy training about a year ago, and people still worship this guy.  They still have yearly trainings pilgrimages to his chateau in Switzerland where they have orgies in padded rooms filled with cigar smoke in his honor.

In addition to the fact that I am insanely jealous that these Jungian therapists somehow make enough money to go to the Swiss Alps once a year, I like this guy’s ideas.  The dude made sense to me, for the most part.

As I sat watching, I liked this portrayal of Jung, too.  He was smart and dedicated to his work and to this exciting, emerging field.  He was painted as this logical, scrupulous scholar and clinician who wanted to make a difference in the world, one crazy lady at a time and I was like, YES!  He helped to create my destiny, you guys.  This was turning into a spiritual experience for me.

And then Jung caves and decides to not only bang his sexy, miraculously cured patient, but to flog her with a paddle.  Hard.  I felt like I was watching the movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey already, minus the butt plugs (thankfully).  Along with Jung’s dignity went most of my admiration and respect for this movie representation of him, right down the toilet.

What Jung did maintain in this movie was a healthy skepticism of Freud’s obsession with everything sexual.  In this portrayal, Freud saw most normal problems in sexual terms, interpreting everything as such.  Sure, we’re sexual beings, but that doesn’t mean everything has to be conceptualized through that lens.  In this space, Jung and I continued to jive.  And I guess I should give him props that he did eventually regain his senses and broke things off with his Russian mistress.

The one thing missing from this movie was more cocaine.  I thought I read somewhere that Jung and Freud had a few gentlemanly get togethers that included cigars, brandy, and doing enough lines to kill a small horse.
Now that’s a movie I’d like to see.

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16 responses

  1. I actually really like Carl Jung, but it’s because I’m a budding art therapist type person and a lot of art therapy comes from him, etc. I’m a little scared to watch the movie now.

  2. OMG this made me laugh so hard! My husband works in a hospital and he came home a few weeks ago informing me that the term “hysteria” referred to the uterus travelling around the body. “Her uterus was clearly stuck in her madulla oblongotta.” Amazing. I think I just “Lizzed.”

  3. I need to see this movie just so I can see Keira Knightly as a crazy pants.

    Have you read The Magic Mountain? It really has nothing to do with your post but something about the way you described the movie reminded me of it.

      • Erm, maybe. I dunno what you usually like to read. It was my bedtime reading and it took me nearly a year to get through it because it’s wordy and philosophical. It’s about this guy who lives at the turn of the 20th century who goes to a sanitarium in the Alps to get a “sleep cure” for general malaise. He ends up staying for like 15 years.

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