I knew really nothing about this movie going into it except it was a historical drama about Freud and Jung. I like me some psychology, so I thought it would be, at the very least, interesting–if not mildly dull at times. But hey, not a lot of choices this week (and yes, I refused to go Chipmunks: Chipwrecked). So, as I said, the film is about the relationship between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), mostly surrounding the pscyhological conundrums that a young Russian woman named Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) brings to the table.
The best thing about the film is the acting. Everybody on board is great, but it was–surprisingly–Keira Knightley who outshined everyone. She was bloody outstanding; this was easily the best performance of her career thus far, and I honestly didn’t know she had this in her. In fact, I found myself not nearly as interested in the film when she wasn’t in it.
And that could be seen as a negative. A pretty big negative, actually. For a movie based on the lives of the biggest names in psychology, nothing about it was very psychological… or really very thrilling. Perhaps it was due to how the film was put together and/or directed, but I found myself really not caring about any scene that Keira Knightley wasn’t involved in. I couldn’t get invested in either Freud or Jung, didn’t care about their personal or professional friendships, didn’t care about their individual personal lives or how their professional lives hurt them. None of it. The only interesting or remotely developed story was that of Sabina.
A lot of the problem, I think, had to do with the jumpiness of the film. It is continually jumping forward in time, only staying in a spot long enough to get a “plot” point down. Even with my fascination with the character of Sabina, I found the three-year jump from her being totally insane to her being relatively “normal” without any real transition a bit jarring and wanting. There was just really poor use of transition and storytelling. It was as if they had the story, had the performances, and didn’t know how to put it together and make it overall interesting. Hell, I think the pre-ending credits blurbs telling you what happened to these people were far more interesting than what I just spent 90 minutes watching (again, except for Knightley). But even before that, it’s just a sequence of events that don’t really tell a story as much as it’s a set of things that happened to these people with some changes in how they see each other.
And then it just… ends.