Saturday, February 11, 2012

Notes on the Film A Dangerous Method - Ideas in Conflict

by Bill Johnson
This movie about Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, and Sabina, a patient of Jung's, illustrates that conflict in a film does not have to revolve around action. Here the most heated conflict revolves around ideas.

Jung is a disciple of Freud, who has invented psychoanalysis. Freud's goal is to ensure that psychoanalysis be taken seriously as a scientific method of understanding people through an understanding of the subconscious and the unconscious. When Jung begins to express an interest in a collective unconscious and mysticism, Freud sees this as something that will undermine his life's work.

Each man is committed to his ideas and their primacy. Neither can walk away from the conflict between their ideas.

When Jung begins to treat a young Russian Jew named Sabina with the new talking cure, he finds himself attracted to her (as he is not to his wealthy, genteel wife). When Jung and Sabina become lovers and rumors about that begin to surface, Freud now has a weapon he can use to discredit Jung, and by discrediting Jung, his ideas as well.

But he does not.

A thoughtful, intelligent film directed by David Cronenberg.

Years ago I reviewed a generic action film. The Big Bad in the film had hired mercenaries, some right-wing idealogues and some professional soldiers for hire. I pointed out he could develop conflict between these two groups based on their different mind-sets. A small point, but it would have given what was generic characters some flavor.

When characters embody powerful ideas in conflict, and a storyteller finds a way to bind those characters together, that kind of conflict naturally and forcefully comes off the page.

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A fourth edition of Bill Johnson's writing workbook, A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling, is now available for $2.99 from Amazon Kindle.