Carl Jung (Fassbender) is mentored by Sigmund Freud (Viggo) to attempt to study and practice an experimental medical approach called talking therapy. He tries it out on a serious patient, Sabina (Keira Knightly). She has physical tics and jerks, irrational reactions to the smallest things. When she is committed to the hospital in the beginning - she won’t stop screaming, fighting, struggling, freaking out and laughing hysterically, for the whole trip that we see.
When Jung begins to interview her, she appears to calm down. Her reactions are physical in the jaw, stutters – drawn out and emotionally stretching. She suffers anxiety and at first it’s unclear what else she suffers from. When Jung reaches tough subjects, she is open and honest with him – which surprised me. Perhaps doctors were more trusted back then, even by those suffering paranoid delusions and physically affecting emotional spasms.
When he hits a sore point, she seems to react with fear, with what I thought was the need to urinate or defecate. In fact what she feels is a desperate need to have an orgasm – and the humiliation related to the fits (and sexually deviant reasons for them) that this brings forth. She is overcome by erotic impulses.
The music and the cinematography are suspenseful and deliberate, but the film is not a thriller; more of an eerie drama about sex and therapy.
The more often she meets with Jung to discuss her problems, the better she appears to get. Jung also tries to look into what positive social outcomes she could attain. Where her interests lie and therefore what kind of work she might pursue.
She wants to be a therapist, (though I believe the term if it does at this time exist, is still in its infancy,) like Jung. So he enables her to assist him on some of his experiments and she proves to be a particularly insightful trainee.
Freud (who believes that all mental illness is sexual in nature) prescribes a friend to Jung’s care – it becomes blurry which of them is in fact receiving the analysis. Freud’s friend Otto (Vincent Cassel) is something of a sexual anarchist. He encourages Jung to pursue his private desires to cheat on his wife with his patient Sabina.
Jung finally gives in to the carnal pleasures of Sabina who it seems is in love with Jung. He is her first. The wife is an unfortunate victim of this betrayal. She loves her husband, does everything to please him and even does not blame him when he cheats, only asks that he return from it, as if it were a bad habit.
The friendship between Jung and Freud which started so pleasantly and passionately with their thirteen hour discussion of their work, feels a struggle through Freud’s impression of Jung’s mistake in how he treats his women. And through Jung’s insistence that not everything is about sex and that Freud is not his father – a role in the relationship which he seems to resent Freud for attempting to perform.