Interview: David Cronenberg (2011) A Dangerous Method

As one of the most unique and visionary directors of our time, David Cronenberg is an endlessly fascinating artist and storyteller. His most recent film, A Dangerous Method, has proven to be one of his more interesting and provocative films to date. Whether he’s crafting horror, thriller, or even historical dramas, Cronenberg repeatedly proves that his skill as a director is in the upper echelon of filmmakers working today. Working Author was fortunate to learn that besides monumental talent, he also possesses intelligence and genuine enthusiasm to match. Mr. Cronenberg was generous enough to share some of the stories and experiences that went into making A Dangerous Method.

For fans of his body of work he was more than willing to share some of the processes and desires that went into creating the Pre-World War I story of Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, and Sabina Spielrein. Some of his very first insight was how Viggo Mortensen came into consideration for the casting of Sigmund Freud, “I thought that we really needed some ‘not-obvious’ casting for Freud…. It wasn’t the grandfatherly sick stern old Freud that most people think they know. This was a fifty-year-old very dynamic, very charismatic leader of a very intense group of people.” He elaborates on the casting of Mortensen specifically by saying, “I thought it would take a slightly oblique, non-traditional type of casting to deliver this kind of Freud…when I discussed with him (Mortensen) what kind of Freud it was…he could tell the writing of Christopher (Hampton) was terrific and eventually he came around.”

There was a desire to know more about Keira Knightley and her role in the film as well. Mr. Cronenberg spoke very highly of her performance in A Dangerous Method and her skill as an actress at length. “She’s wonderful. I always thought she was a very underrated actress, and that proved to be the case. She was incredibly well prepared. We discussed particularly the hysteria…and we had to show that. We had all of this accurate information about that, and I said to Keira ‘You’re asked to describe things that are unspeakable.’ She’s being asked for the first time to say these unspeakable things.” She was more than up to the task; the intense scenes of Sabina’s hysterics and traumas are some of the most compelling parts of the film.

When asked if there was something of personal interest in telling the story of these real people and adapting it to fit his own styling Mr. Cronenberg was refreshingly concise, “I have no thoughts…seriously I don’t think about my other movies when I’m making a movie. It’s as though I’ve never made one, other than that I have the craft…I don’t really try to connect each project with other projects in the way that a critic does. I sometimes I have to remind critics that my process and theirs is not the same.” Cronenberg did make it very evident that he has a passion for this particular study of human health, as well as Jung and Freud as historical figures. He shared with enthusiasm the recent return in modern psychological studies to the teachings of Freud and Jung and went on to talk further about them, “When you read the letters between Freud and Jung, they feel totally modern…here were two professional men…writing to each other about bodily fluids and erotic dreams and things that men of those time, would never ever speak to each other.” His admiration of Spielrein came through as well, “She was absolutely their intellectual equal, and she spoke about Woman’s erotic nature at the same time and same level. It was unheard of before.” Mr. Cronenberg made it evident that the combination of his skilled cast and a personal passion for the subject matter at hand were key ingredients to the success of A Dangerous Method.

Finding filmmakers that have such a diverse body of work and with such a high amount of both critical and commercial success can be a rare thing. However, David Cronenberg transcends styles and genre conventions to take on each story as a unique opportunity to create something wonderful. It’s apparent from his obvious devotion and interest in the source material of A Dangerous Method that he approached it with the same amount of devotion as he did crafting the surreal world of The Fly and the suspense of Eastern Promises. It’s a rare treat to get such insight from such a consummate filmmaker. Luckily, as A Dangerous Method will show, Mr. Cronenberg shows no sign of slowing down.

Contributing Author

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