Stars: Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender
R Rated Review
Okay, the disclaimer is up. It’s a shocking movie. If you’re a psychologist buff who has studied the works of Jung and Freud, this movie could be your cup of tea. If you’re an individual who has been beaten and sexually abused, hide the play button. It could resurrect repressed memories you had hoped to forget. Watch at your own risk. On the other hand, if you read Fifty Shades of Grey and liked it, this movie could be right up your alley.
This movie is supposedly based on a true story. Enters Sabina Spielrein – painfully played by Keira Knightly, I might add. She arrives at the mental institution, Carl Jung (played by Michael Fassbender) is her doctor. He sits in a chair behind her and starts to embark on the method of psychoanalyzing a disturbed woman. Sabina contorts into all sorts of physical language from her face to her toes, and confesses to her doctor that she’s been abused, beaten, and likes it. In today’s language that would be translated into kinky sex. She enjoys being naked, tied up, and beaten as a result of what her father did to her as a child.
As her treatment progresses, Carl meets his idol, Sigmond, and they discuss her case. However, Sabina, as she becomes more stable, entices her doctor into a relationship. Married and about to commit professional suicide, Jung has an affair with her anyway. If that isn’t bad enough, he satisfies her sexual needs by binding her and beating her with a belt. The act portrayed on screen is far too long on screen, as you watch her contort in pain but enjoy it sexually. The man who is suppose to cure her ends up reinforcing her behavior instead. The outcome is disastrous.
Jung becomes as addicted to her and their affair (even though at one point he tries to break it off), as she is addicted to her behavior. He gives you the impression he loves the dominant male position of spanking her bottom with his belt as much as she loves it at the receiving end. Whether Jung really did go that far in real life is questionable, since he’s well known and revered in his work. From what I’ve read the affair was real, but I’d like to believe the remainder is Hollywood contrived.
The interaction and professional discussions between Jung and Freud are interesting to watch. Surprisingly, Sabina eventually goes on in life to become a psychiatrist herself. Jung helps her achieve that goal. The affair eventually ends, the two part, she marries and finds her own successful career, while Jung wallows in regrets.
Frankly, I had high hopes for this movie, but it turned out rather discouraging and convoluted to watch. The timeline jumps from one period to the next. Scenes happen that make no sense and are followed with no explanation. For example Freud suffers what appears to be a heart attack or stroke in one scene, the next he’s perfectly fine. Huh? The acting on Kiera’s part can only be described as painful to watch earlier in the movie, and bland by others.
Not my cup of tea, especially standing in their bedroom watching drawn out scenes of Sabina tied to the bed and beaten with a belt for sexual arousal. I didn’t count the number of times; I only remember saying to myself, “Enough already, I get the point.”