Philadelphia Daily News
In “A Dangerous Method,” Keira Knightley turns her fingers into claws and thrusts her jaw into such a canine state you almost expect her to turn into a werewolf.
Another CGI-filled horror film?
Nope, it’s David Cronenberg’s fastidious and polite look at Sabina Spielrein (Knightley), Karl Jung (Michael Fassbender), Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and the birth of psychoanalysis.
We spoke with Knightley about her preparation for the role in September at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The British actress said she had four months to do research for Sabina and read constantly — academic works, Nietschze and her subject’s letters in “Sabina Spielrein: Forgotten Pioneer in Psychoanalysis.”
“It was great,” she said, “really helpful.”
But Knightley said her reading list was also “very challenging, because it’s in that whole other academic language which I never looked at before. I don’t pretend to understand everything I read, but it was a way to understand her.
“When you actually look at the case notes and Sabina’s family history it’s pretty dark stuff,” Knightley added. “But I found her incredibly inspiring. Just the idea that you’ve got somebody who’s so ill at the beginning — so trapped within herself. ... She literally thought that she was possessed, that she was demonic. That that person through analysis can be culled out of herself, have her intellect stimulated and be made functional within society — and not only that but can become a psychoanalyst in her own right and come up with ideas that inspire both Freud and Jung is an extraordinarily inspiring story.”
“One of the most challenging aspects of the role,” she said, was in interpreting the screeenplay’s direction.
“In the script,” she said, “it would say, ‘She has a hysterical fit and she’s ravaged by tics,’ and I’d think, ‘What is a hysterical fit?’ and ‘What tics? Specifically, what tics?’
“There were no descriptions anywhere as to what the actual tics were. ... But there were a couple of words in one of her diary entries which caught my attention in which she describes herself as like a demon or a dog. ... I thought it was important for somewhere to reflect that.
“Then I thought, maybe if I start from that point.”
So Knightley spoke to analysts about what tics were and what hysterical outbursts were and “what it was about the constant sexuality and masturbation, and they thought all of it was about trying to get pent-up emotion out. A release. I thought physically that was quite an interesting thing to look at.
“Then I literally went into my bathroom and made faces at myself. I wanted it to be as shocking as possible — to be f---ed up.”
Philadelphia Daily News