Movie explores the working relationship between Freud and Jung

The actor Michael Fassbender talks about working with the director David Cronenberg on A Dangerous Method.

A scene from the film A Dangerous Method, which explores the working relationship between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.
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A Dangerous Method is about the birth of psychoanalysis. Directed by the Canadian auteur David Cronenberg, it details the friendship and rivalry between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender).

The story is told from the perspective of Jung, who tries to cure Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), an 18-year-old Russian diagnosed with hysteria through the use of "a talking cure".

Psychology in its infancy proves a fascinating subject as Freud and Jung try to understand and decipher the workings of the mind. When Jung starts having feelings for his patients all sorts of moral conundrums come to the fore and his relationship with Freud becomes strained. The tension is punctuated by a rather brilliant cameo from Vincent Cassel as Otto Gross, a fellow psychiatrist struggling with his own demons.

Fassbender puts in another winning performance. The Irish actor has gone from strength to strength since the director Steve McQueen cast him in his IRA prison drama, Hunger. Roles in Inglourious Basterds and X Men: First Class have cemented his position as one of the most sought-after actors working today. Critical acclaim has also been forthcoming and this year, the 34-year-old star won the best actor prize at Venice for his turn in Steve Mcqueen's Shame. Born in Germany, to a German father and an Irish mother, he was raised in Killarney, County Derry and received his major break in the TV war series Band of Brothers.

He says that to prepare for the role of Jung he "really concentrated on the script - main work involved trying to get the rhythm of the script, as to me it read like a piece of music. Only through lots of repetition did I uncover the rhythm of the piece".

Fassbender does admit to doing a minimal level of research on Jung as well.

"I got a great book on Jung, which was not very thick - it was like Jung for children, an idiot's handbook - and I think I found everything that I needed to find in that book."

It's hard to tell how much truth there is in the Irish actor's statement. He's sarcastic and seems to enjoy messing with people's heads. However, he knew he'd take the role as soon as he met with the famed Canadian director.

"We first met in Toronto. I flew up to meet David and that is really when he started directing me, if you like. I always think great directors are great manipulators, planting seeds about the story and what he thought was interesting and where he thought Jung was coming from."

It seems Cronenberg is a master of mind games, both on screen and off. All of his films, even those that play like horror films such as Shivers or action films such as A History of Violence, are essays on the human psyche. He seems to have a penchant for bipolar characters and those who see the world in unique ways. It's why he was the perfect director to adapt Naked Lunch.

Fassbender is clearly a fan.

"One of the things about David on set is that he allows you to breathe and find the character in your own way. Great directors don't necessarily give you a huge amount of direction on the day. It's maybe a week or two nights before at dinner, little hints and nudges that sort of sway you in certain directions."

A Dangerous Method is showing at the Abu Dhabi Theatre tonight at 9:30pm and again at 3:30pm on Wednesday