As a young legendary-director-to-be in the ’60s, David Cronenberg created a short film called “Transfer,” where a patient becomes obsessed with their psychologist. Over 40 years later, his storytelling has come full circle with the release of “A Dangerous Method,” starring Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley. The major difference is that ‘Method’ is inspired by a true story, chronicling the intense relationships between Sigmund Freud (Mortensesn), Carl Jung (Fassbender) and the unbalanced Sabina Spielrein (Knightley).
Over the course of the film, we see the mentor-student dynamic between Freud and Jung grow and then collapse, the mental stability of Spielrein strengthen, and the shift of power during her affair with Jung.
“When she comes into the hospital, I’m definitely the guy who is in control,” Fassbender told The Seven Sees. “At the end of the film, [when] she comes to visit me, she definitely has more power when Jung is about to go into this breakdown.”
Jung’s breakdown is only just beginning when we leave him at the end of the film in 1913, a vast difference from what was happening on the set of the movie for Fassbender, who was simply thrilled to be a part of a Cronenberg film.
“I was a fan of his, for sure,” says Fassbender. “I was very envious when they were filming ‘Eastern Promises,’ as I live around Hackney where they were filming. I thought, ‘Oh God, wouldn’t it be great to be on a David Cronenberg set?’ It was very exciting, the idea and the prospect of working with him. And yes, it was different than what I expected because you see his films and they can be quite violent. They are dark. He’s kind of the opposite. He’s very sweet and loving, very generous and very humorous. We joked around a lot on set which is always fun and can lend to the piece, especially when you’re dealing with something that is very much set in a particular time. It’s a period piece. There are the social etiquettes, the way people held themselves, and the ways that we related to one another is different today. You don’t want to get bogged down in that, so it becomes more about costumes and everything else when it’s supposed to be about keeping it accessible and fresh. So having that humor is a nice device for that because it gives a nice relaxed and light feeling going into scenes that can be heavy and deep with heavy themes.”
Fassbender also points out that it makes it possible to have such an easy-going set when the director preps his actors so well ahead of time.
“The great directors that I have had a chance to work with, they all have to be great manipulators and they do their manipulation in the weeks leading up.” Adding, “It’s a dinner here, when you’re trying on costumes, or picking the props – the little things they do by dropping a phrase here, asking you questions over time. And then, once we got on set, there’s very little dialogue. It’s just sort of ‘get on with it.’ All of that was discussed previously.”
As for the Cronenberg fans who worry “A Dangerous Method” is a far cry from his past movies like “The Dead Zone” (1983) starring Christopher Walken, “The Fly” (1986) starring Jeff Goldblum or the two other films he’s done with Mortensen, “A History of Violence” (2005) and “Eastern Promises” (2007), Cronenberg simply explains, “With ‘A Dangerous Method,’ I sought to make an elegant film that trades on emotional horror, but loses none of its power to seduce. I was stimulated by offbeat and intimate details that illuminate the three leads themselves, and give a sense of what it must have been like to be at once trapped and liberated by their cerebral and physical bonds.”
And if that doesn’t soothe the doubt, remember, before the sci-fi and horror, there was that short film in 1966, which Cronenberg talked about further during our interview with him in Los Angeles.