Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Sigmund Freud’

A Dangerous Method

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 13th February, 2012

The dynamic between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung was one of the most fascinating and enigmatic of the early 20th Century, inevitably shaping the development of psychoanalysis and related fields. No wonder it proved such a tempting theme for Christopher Hampton in his play, The Talking Cure. Hampton subsquently wrote the screenplay for the film A Dangerous Method, which is now on general release in cinemas in the UK. David Cronenberg’s direction is deliberately slow-paced, befitting the elegant twilight of Mitteleuropa in the years before the Great War. The Austrian and Swiss settings are truly beautiful, as indeed are the clothes, especially amongst the haute bourgeoisie. One paradox in the Freud-Jung dynamic was that it was the young man who had the wealth (through his extraordinarily forbearing wife) as well as the ethnic security that would soon become such an issue. Michael Fassbender plays Jung rather like a junior civil servant of good family, very punctilious and eager for advancement, until the floodgates of passion are opened in a totally unprofessional way by his patient and later colleague, the ravishing Russian Jewess, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley, who puts more demented, jaw-distorting vigour into this role than one might have expected from this graduate of Pirates of the Caribbean). Viggo Mortensen is oddly cast as Freud, looking nothing like him, but as he revealed in a recent interview in the Camden New Journal, he did a huge amount of research into the personality he was portraying, not just through reading books but also travelling to Vienna to soak up the atmosphere. Mortensen says that what struck him most about Freud was his sense of humour, though this impishness doesn’t really manifest itself in the this film. Instead, viewing leaves one with the sadness of nostalgia for a byegone age and for the failure of people to adequately communicate with and tolerate each other. The end credits remind one that Spielrein, after returning to Russia, was taken by the invading Nazis to a synagogue in World War II and shot. Freud managed to flee, with difficulty, to L0ndon, with some but not all of his large family. And so psychoanalysis migrated from the German-speaking world to the English-speaking world. Yet I am left feeling that this film would have worked far better in German, though of course Hollywood would never have put up with that!

Rating: ***

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The Escape of Sigmund Freud

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 12th July, 2011

The father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, has been the subject of many biographies and critical studies, but as proof that there is always something new and interesting to say about a truly great figure, David Cohen’s The Escape of Sigmund Freud (JR Books, £18.99) focuses in illuminating fashion on the last few years of Freud’s time in Vienna leading to his exile in London. The key new element is Cohen’s speculation about the exact role of the young Nazi sympathiser and chemist Anton Sauerwald, who seems to have eased the passage for Freud and much of his household, as well as hiding the existence of some of Freud’s foreign bank accounts. It is an exaggeration to compare Sauerwald with Oskar Schindler, but his story is nonetheless intriguing. There are also some fascinating insights into the Freud family’s lifestyle in Vienna as catastrophe approached. All in all, a book that is both enjoyable in itself and likely to stimulate the reader to move on to other accounts of the period and its personalities.

Link:  www.jrbooks.com

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