Today we are continuing our series on theatrically-related 2012 Oscar hopefuls with a look at the just-released trailer for David Cronenberg's new film A DANGEROUS METHOD starring Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen and Vincent Cassel. Based on a play about the friendship, lives and studies of scientists/philosophers/doctors Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung and how it pertains to a female patient, Sabina, penned by DANGEROUS LIASONS and ATONEMENT scribe Christopher Hampton, titled THE TALKING CURE, Hampton also penned the screenplay for this film adaptation, which also credits John Kerr's examination of Freud and Jung's studies and personal lives, A MOST DANGEROUS METHOD. Given the films R-rating, Cronenberg will evidently be given full reign to follow the story's explorations of the dark recesses of human psychology and how it manifests in our sexuality. While Cronenberg has repeatedly proven his prowess with intimate character studies in recent years with his superb string of dramas such as SPIDER starring Ralph Fiennes, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE with Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello and, most recently, the unforgettable EASTERN PROMISES with Mortensen and Naomi Watts, A DANGEROUS METHOD is his first bid for Oscar gold this decade and for the first time in his forty year career he may finally be awarded for his cinematic legacy given this perfect storm of his idiosyncratic cinematic sensibilities married to charismatic lead performances by four of the hottest names in drama telling a story that only Cronenberg could tell this well - with a screenplay by one of the great playwrights and screenwriters of our age, as well. If the early reviews from the Venice Film Festival, where the film premiered earlier this week, and spellbinding images and scenes on display in the new trailer for the film are any indication of what we can expect from A DANGEROUS METHOD onscreen, this could very well be the film to sweep all the statuettes at the Oscars.
A History of Promise, Fulfilled
Some directors cannot be confined to one genre or style. Some directors, too, cannot even be defined in any way at all. While David Cronenberg may very well be known to cult film fans for his many horror and science fiction features in the 1970s and 1980s - among them: RABID starring Marilyn Chambers, THE BROOD with Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggars, THE DEAD ZONE with Christopher Walken, DEAD RINGERS with Jeremy Irons, SCANNERS, VIDEODROME with James Woods and Debbie Harry, and, perhaps his most well-known film to date, the remake of THE FLY with Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis - it is with his late-career cinematic entrees that he has crafted a tone, style, rhythm, pace and genre all his own. Or, one could ask: were all the films in his portfolio collectively always going to lead to this sophistication were he to continue filmmaking into his sixties (and, soon, seventies), as he has? While he certainly has not pumped out film after film as he did during his hot streaks in the past, the commitment to storytelling and character development above all else in the aforementioned masterful triptych of SPIDER, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE and EASTERN PROMISES displays a level of theatricality, ambition and richness that is rarely, if ever, achieved in American film anymore. Cronenberg is a true movie master and his cool, cerebral edge is what gives these late-era entries in his canon such a voyeuristic power - an element his films have always capitalized upon - from the veritable visionary of voyeurism in film himself, to stand alongside fellow masters like David Lynch, Brian DePalma and Alfred Hitchcock (and, yes, I am saying all four of their names in the same breath). The observer is always a character in a Cronenberg film, just as the audience is always aware of itself and the role it plays in the drama in a theatrical context at a live show, Broadway or beyond. Considering the subject matter at the heart of A DANGEROUS METHOD, we could be in for some of the best stage scenes outside of 42nd St. thanks to Hampton's words and Cronenberg's guidance of the stalwart actors employing and embodying them. We shall certainly see!
Given all of the above, it should come as no surprise whatsoever, then, that Cronenberg has even begun directing stage ventures in recent years, the most significant being THE FLY, which was recently adapted into a full-length opera by Cronenberg himself along with constant cinematic composorial collaborator, Howard Shore. Like many of the best Hollywood directors - Mike Nichols and Robert Altman being foremost examples - Cronenberg brings the best of the stage with him in each creation, a feat achieved mostly through casting and the creative teams he creates to build each film and, then, through his intense attention to detail insofar as character and story elements are concerned - and, of course, how those words, thoughts and emotions are conveyed on celluloid. With each new cinematic endeavor, the slick style and cerebral nature of Cronenberg's compositions remains intact, yet the subject matter comes alive and pops in a way few directors can seem to make happen these days - and, furthermore, it always feels real. Sometimes, too real.
There is an almost scientific observational aspect to each Cronenberg film, particularly evident in his films from M. BUTTERFLY on, and, given the subject matter of A DANGEROUS METHOD and its dealings with doctors, patients and the unknown universe of the human body and mind, a better director could not have been chosen for this difficult job. After all, A DANGEROUS METHOD marks Cronenberg's first film foray in over four years - although his next feature, COSMOPOLIS, starring Robert Pattinson, is currently shooting and set for a mid-2012 release - and this forthcoming cinematic combination has Cronenberg poised to potentially deliver yet another late-career one-two knock-out drag-out punch to follow the enviable double-blow of VIOLENCE/PROMISES.
Lest we forget when considering the concise and delicately unraveling drama at the core of A DANGEROUS METHOD and slipping into the sensuous and stirring visuals of the trailer that Cronenberg is no stranger to actual theatrical fare onscreen in his incredibly varied career, either, having directed the sensitive and evocative stage adaptation of David Henry Hwang's acclaimed transvestism meditation, M. BUTTERFLY, with a staggering lead performance by Jeremy Irons, so to cast modern-day actors with big onscreen personalities and stage chops to spare such as Mortensen, Fassbender, Knightley and Cassel continues on a great Cronenberg tradition of powerful, impressively detailed character studies that have a lasting impact long after you have experienced the film that contains them. I mean, who will ever forget Judy Davis's junkie ecstatically injecting herself with a syringe through the heart in NAKED LUNCH? Or, Oliver Reed's blustery and bravado-laden turn in THE BROOD? Or, James Woods' best performance to date as the protagonist of the erotically bizarre and all-too-prescient VIDEODROME? Particularly if we consider the compelling theatrics and over-the-toppery implicit in performances such as Jeremy Irons in dual roles chewing the scenery with delectability as only he can as the drug-addled twin surgeons with serious kink issues at the center of DEAD RINGERS; or William Hurt's ten heart-stopping and searing minutes in A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE - it becomes amply apparent to see that Cronenberg is an actor's director, through and through; first and foremost. With hot talents such as the foursome at the heart of A DANGEROUS METHOD, Cronenberg could very well have a box office hit on his hands, as well - something not even Freud or Jung probably would or could have ever predicted happening with a film about their lives. Sure, elements of the true-life story will surely be glamorized, but the vivid veracity of the vivaciousness and verve at the heart of humanity and how the study of the most seemingly repellant aspects of it can yield an understanding of, compassion for and acquirement of knowledge resulting from that experience. Perhaps the film will do the same.
Indeed, judging from what we have to see here of A DANGEROUS METHOD, Cronenberg may very well deliver the masterwork of his long and accomplished career at last if the trailer is any indication whatsoever of his handle on the intellectual - some would say impermeable - material, as well as the already evidently riveting performance by Knightley and charismatic turns by the leading man. Yes, indeed - what of Sigmund Freud (Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Fassbender)?
Now, check out the sights and sounds of Cronenberg's A DANGEROUS METHOD.
Also, as a special bonus, here are trailers for some of the Cronenberg films discussed above:
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
So, do Roman Polanski and his cinematically adapted stage-to-screen four-hander CARNAGE finally have some stiff competition from Cronenberg & Co. with A DANGEROUS METHOD? What about George Clooney, Ryan Gosling and THE IDES OF MARCH team (which is yet another play adaptation)? I, for one, cannot wait to see all three and report back! What about you? What Oscar hopeful(s) can you not wait to see in the coming months?
That's all for this week. Please remember that if you have discovered a particularly thrilling, unique, bizarre or hilarious Broadway-related clip to please send us a line at the link below. Until next week…
Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics