Viggo Mortensen Interview For David Cronenberg’s ‘A Dangerous Method’
Drawn from true-life events, David Cronenberg’s ‘A Dangerous Method’ chronicles the turbulent relationships between fledgling psychiatrist Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), his mentor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), the troubled but beautiful young woman who comes between them. Into the mix comes Otto Gross (Vincent Cassell), a debauched patient who is determined to push the boundaries. In this exploration of sensuality, ambition and deceit set the scene for the pivotal moment when Jung, Freud and Sabina come together and split apart, forever changing the face of modern thought. ‘A Dangerous Method’ is set for release November 23rd in the US, and Febuary 10th in the UK. Check out what Viggo Mortensen had to say about the film in a quick interview below.
‘A Dangerous Method’ is your third collaboration with David Cronenberg, what do you think he brings to this story? How is it working with him?
Viggo Mortensen: I think in the hands of another director who was less assured, less knowledgeable, less well-read about the subject matter – about Freud, Jung and Spielrein, I think it would have been a very dull movie. I think what was the best thing that David did, which is something I’ve always experienced with him, he instils confidence by creating a calm, professional and fun atmosphere on the set. He will get you under a spell. he creates the illusion that there’s a lot of time, there’s no pressure, that it’s all going to work out.
What aspects of Sigmund Freud related to you as a person and as an actor?
Viggo Mortensen: In principle, at least the way I read it, the most positive aspect of what Freud had a large hand in pioneering was the idea of listening to people, in a particular way. Why I say positive is because I think it’s one of the most loving things you can do, just to listen to somebody. The idea was to listen to someone confess without judging them, you are of course going to judge them in some way, but the person that is being listening to, you are not being listened to by a family member, or someone who has some sort of emotional stake in what you are telling them, they’re just listening. If you listen first of all, that means you’re showing some interest in what is going on with them, and not just what’s going on with you, or your country, or your interests. It depends how you approach acting, but to me the best acting, the best directing comes from that. You can prepare everything as much as you want, but in the end when you get there, the foundation of good acting is really listening, even if you have a lot of dialogue (laughs). It’s positive, I like that aspect of the story we are telling.
I thought the film really brought to life these people.
Viggo Mortensen: Yeah, Christopher Hampton wrote an excellent script. I think that the movie works because it doesn’t get bogged down in trying to be academic, it is academic, it is well researched – based on the work by Spielrein, Jung and Freud, using the letters largely between them. The academic value is there, but the purpose is to tell an entertaining story in the end, a movie that is fun to watch, is interesting to watch, makes you want to learn more about maybe the period, these people – that’s what I focused on. What I took from the experience of shooting this film, as much as I enjoyed doing the research, in the end it wasn’t about academic differences, it was about personality differences and misunderstandings, things that can happen anywhere, at any time. That’s what was dramatically interesting for me.
This film doesn’t shy away from showing some of the flaws and quirks in Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.
Viggo Mortensen: One of the things I liked a lot about the play and the screenplay is that neither Christopher or David, in executing this story, shooting this story, tried to make up for, or altered the realities of the time period, they didn’t try to make these men less vain, didn’t try to make them more liberated in their thinking towards women. You can’t separate them from their times, but it is remarkable what they were thinking about, what they originated in their time. They are, as we all are, products of their time. Sabina was given some credit by Freud, but he could have given her a lot more credit, and could have understood her better. But I think him being a man at that time, and his ego maybe got in the way of that – because he was capable of understanding her better, he certainly made use of her ideas to some degree, he did give her a footnote – Jung didn’t give her any (laughs). Both of them let their ego get in the ways of things, I like that that wasn’t varnished over, the script didn’t remove the flaws.
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