In the new David Cronenberg film, A Dangerous Method, a tortured Carl Jung struggles with these very questions. He has met Sabina Spielrein, a fiercely writhing, twitching, hysterical patient who seems literally possessed by violence, her body stretched so taut that at times you half expect her to pounce. It’s Jung’s job to unearth the forces roiling within her that have her wound so tight, and that he does, with the help of a miraculous new “talking cure,” fashioned by one Sigmund Freud, his elder mentor, who aims to shake the medical community (and the world) out of their complacent view that the human race has evolved as far beyond animal instincts as they’d like to believe.
With Freud’s help, Jung uncovers the source of Sabina’s troubles–traumatic, sexual memories, of course (no spoiler there)–and on she goes, almost completely cured, to become a doctor, herself. But the bond between her and Dr. Jung begins to grow during his visits to her at the University. And Jung’s fascination with Spielrein’s erotic energy–she still loves a good, humiliating spanking–brings the two together in sometimes frightening ways.