A Dangerous Method Indeed: Film Analysis by Daniel Ross



On August 17th, 1904 a 19 year old Russian girl by the name of Sabina Spielrein was admitted to the famous Burghölzhi Psychiatric Clinic in Zurich,Switzerland into the care of a young fledgling psychiatrist by the name of Carl Gustav Jung.  Fresh from reading about the newest methods of psychiatric treatment published by Sigmund Freud, a method later to be called psychoanalysis, Jung applied these new ideas to his treatment of Miss Spielrein’ hysteria.  In two years her disturbing symptoms subsided and Jung, impressed with this new technique and wanting to impress his new mentor, Jung used the Spielrein case to impress Freud while showing him the positive results of his method.

Thus began a relationship between three people whose influence on Jung’s work would be immense in pointing the way forward to something new even as he was separating from the old.  Based on John Kerr’s well researched work called A Most Dangerous Method published in 1993, the play titled The Talking Cure by Christopher Hampton was published and performed in London in 2002 and focused on the relationships of Freud, Spielrein, Jung and Otto Gross. Hampton adapted the screenplay for the film eventually called A Dangerous Method starring Viggo Mortensen as Freud, Michael Fassbender as Jung and Keira Knightley as Spielrein.

Here is a sampling of what critics have to say so far about the film:

As Jung crossed the sacred boundaries of medicine with his client Spielrein,  he descended into his own madness even as she emerged from hers to go on to medical school and become a psychoanalyst in her own right, always harboring a deep love for Jung. Though her relationship with Jung freed her from the patriarchal shackles into which she was born, her work was never seriously recognized and she moved back to her home town inRussia, married and had children. There her psychoanalytic work focused on children. Years later she would be executed by the Nazi’s marching through Russia along with all her family.

The nine years of the relationship between Jung, Spielrein and Freud shaped all their careers and fatefully led to the breakup of Freud and Jung and left a gulf between Jung and Sabina.  In February 2012 we will present a televised seminar and discussion of the film A Dangerous Method by David Cronenberg while reflecting on the works from which the film drew,  Kerr’s A Most Dangerous Method, whose title is based on a statement of caution by William James when reading about Freud’s new method of psychoanalysis and the play by David Hampton, The Talking Cure.


Daniel Ross has worked in the field of Hospice for over 20 years and in health care for over 30 years. His interest in analytical psychology grew from his work with dying patients and in 2008 he completed the Clinical Training Program at the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago. Working as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, he is committed to the integration of Jungian psychotherapy in hospice care and to the training of clinicians as well as the public in the practice and principles of analytical psychology. He serves on the Board of Trustees at the C. G. Jung Center in Evanston, Illinois.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Participants will be able to explain the historical origins of psychoanalysis involving Freud, Jung and Spielrein and the role Spielrein played in both men’s lives.
  2. Participants will be able to describe some of the basic theories, germinating during this time for both Freud and Jung and the influence Spielrein may have had on them based on her own work.
  3. The participant will be able to discuss the accuracy of the film based on historical documents and the significance of these early experiences on Jung’s development later on.



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