[Published in The Big Issue, Issue 403, March 23 2012]
When troubled woman Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightly) is taken to Dr Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) for treatment, the young psychiatrist decides to experiment with a new method: ‘psychoanalysis’. Unsurprisingly, Jung discovers that the source of Sabina’s madness is her repressed father issues.
Through the ‘talking cure’, Jung is able to revive Sabina, winning him the respect of his own father figure, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). But the doctor-patient relationship soon turns sadomasochistic, allowing Sabina to enact her oedipal fantasies while forcing Jung to confront his own deviance.
More restrained than most Cronenberg offerings, this period piece offers nuanced insight into the origins of psychoanalysis. Freud’s advice, “Give up any idea of trying to cure them”, could easily be Cronenberg’s own.