April 8, 2012
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SJP

Superb 'Lazhar', 'Method' on DVD
By Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency


Scenes from "Monsieur Lazhar", and "A Dangerous Method" (Handout)

Emotion trumped intellect when Philippe Falardeau's Monsieur Lazhar beat David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method as best picture at Canada's Genie Awards. Both of these films are refined, intelligent and interesting, so quality was not an issue in deciding the best of Canadian cinema from 2011. Instead, questions of tone and focus, along with universal appeal, came into play.

Monsieur Lazhar deals with death and emotional healing in a Quebec school room where students are traumatized after a tragedy. A Dangerous Method methodically tells the story of the birth of psychoanalysis and the complicated relationship of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and the lesser known Sabina Spielrein. She was Jung's hysterical patient and his sexually twisted mistress, but she evolved under his "talking cure" and eventually worked as a psychiatrist herself before being murdered by the Nazis.

Both films also remind us that there are Canadian filmmakers in both official languages who make world-class pictures, even if the Canadian film business is in a perpetual crisis. At the end of Genie night, Monsieur Lazhar had six of the golden statuettes, while A Dangerous Method had five. That haul included best supporting actor for Viggo Mortensen, who had previously co-starred in Cronenberg's A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. The two men are not only good friends, they are collaborators. Mortensen enthuses that Cronenberg "has refined the art of movie-making."

A Dangerous Method is now available on home entertainment. For purchase, there is a stand-alone DVD and a two-disc combo pack. The DVD and Blu-ray share the same extras, including a suite of interviews, random on-set sequences and film clips that isolate highlights.

Cronenberg's opus is also available for rent and as a digital download. This is just the kind of challenging, yet rewarding film that could do better at home than it did in theatres. A Dangerous Method, which is a co-production of Canada, the UK, Germany and Switzerland, generated just $23.2 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.

The cast and crew interviews cover a broad spectrum. Among others, Cronenberg and Mortensen testify along with Michael Fassbender (who plays Jung) and Keira Knightley (who plays Spielrein).


Mortensen says of the film's protagonists Freud, Jung and Spielrein: "It's not so much you know how bright they were and what pioneers they were. It's about the mistakes they made, how imperfect they were. That's where the passion is. That's where the emotion in the story is. And the humour."

Cronenberg calls the trio "quite fascinating people -- and a fantastic story." He adds that "these people were incredibly intellectual and charismatic. They were also very passionate." That, says Cronenberg, produced a super-charged love triangle. "So it was a strange menage-a-trois, not that she had any sexual relations with Freud, but still there was love in each part of the triangle."

Knightley's performance, in which she seems to exaggerate the state of an hysteric, has been hotly debated, especially in online movie forums. But Cronenberg has already said publicly that documentary footage of the real Spielrein shows a woman who was more extreme than Knightley's performance -- so reality is stranger than fiction.

"She was more than a trouper," Cronenberg says of Knightley's willingness to do anything for the role, including scenes where she was caked in mud and mired in a marsh pool while freaking out. "You can't buy that," Cronenberg says of her fearlessness. "An actor really has that to give you, or does not."

All his key actors gave it up to him. For audiences, A Dangerous Method is now there for the taking.

 

 




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