The story of Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and their patient Sabina Spielrein is the basis of this biographical drama, but the filling of the film is a mixture of psychoanalysis and a complicated romance in the eve of World War I. Adapted from a stage play, the film evidently exposes the great idea of the script, but it fails to represent it well in terms of story line and clarity.
At the very beginning of the film you get a sense of an intense pshychological research method which develops until the end, when it culminates with a fundamental disclosure of a new curing method. The first 15 minutes set out this plot but it later becomes fuzzy and blurred by a romantic line which drives the story in a new direction, changing the main focus. Luckily, the incredible acting of Keira Knightley makes you believe that this is the natural progression of the plot and puts her in the centre of both Jung’s study and their love affair. At the same time the role of Freud in the whole story looks insignificant, like an unnecessary driving force which does not succeed to lead and direct the main idea, but to push it from behind, trying to implant itself into a higher position.
The story begins with Jung’s first steps in analytical psychology which he practices on a young Russian woman Sabina Spielrein who has been admitted to his mental hospital. She responds well to his treatment and he soon offers to help her fulfiling her dream to study medicine by making her his student. Sabina develops and learns quickly and soon goes to university. Meanwhile, we become witnesses to the intellectual discussions about psychology by Jung and Freud, who become good friends. Yet these talks stand somehow out of context and leave the spectator with complex phrases and no clear understanding of what is happening. The brief but important appearance of Vincent Cassel throws us in to Jung’s love affair with Sabina, which seems destructive for both of them. It cannot be said that the story develops, in the pure meaning of the word. They are both moving on with their lives but at the same time they are stuck in the past when they were still consuming their unusual love. They live in this moment, the dream about it, they are locked in it forever, no matter what is happening in reality.
The end comes all too quickly, unexpectedly and leaves the story far too open, no matter the final explanatory lines. Nothing seems finished for sure. The movie fails to deliver its main aim – to dip us in the roots of psychoanalysis – instead leaving us unsatisfied, hungry for real closure in this dramatic love story.