The film A Dangerous Method relates the story of Jung’s development of psychoanalytical theory and his meeting with Freud focusing on Sabina Spielrein, a young woman who finds sexual pleasure in physical punishment. Jung is drawn to her and they become lovers and at one point, finally acceding to the fulfillment of her desire, he is shown beating her as she clings, on her knees, to a bedstead.
Jung is played by Michael Fassbender who manages to play the role without any sense of passion. The scene of the beating is remarkable by its comic content, looking as if an automaton had been programmed to thrash her rather than a young man (Jung was in his 20s at the time) involved in a sexual act. So either the film means to portray Jung as going through the motions or the actors just can’t quite keep it, the passion, up. Towards the end of the film, Jung is older and finally Fassbender manages to wheeze some emotion into the role as he tells Sabina that she has been the great love of his life. This came as a surprise to me as I’d not noticed.
Kiera Knightley who plays Sabina, has commented that ‘only Brits like sadomasochistic sex scenes in A Dangerous Method‘. What the British liked I suggest is the very failure of the scene. I would have liked it a little more but it was all too well concealed by the faux-decorous interiors that clothed the very raison d’etre of the film, the relation between the internal mental world and the social world it must inhabit. The reason other nations didn’t mention it, the sadomasochistic elements, is presumably because they simply didn’t notice it at all thinking Jung was tightening her corset or they were too polite to comment on a well known British predilection for ‘what the window cleaner saw’ sexual endeavour.