‘A Dangerous Method’: How to Start a Film

Yesterday I watched ‘A Dangerous Method’ for the first time. I was looking for something fascinating to stream and the movie had been on my watch list for quite a while, so I decided to give it a go. Note, this is not a review and I’m not going to get into much detail about what I think of the production. In short, it’s a very informative film and I enjoyed that side of it. It does have many problems, mainly with the narrative, structure, and overall direction, but I can in no way say that it is a bad movie. Personally, I didn’t enjoy it a lot, but it does exceed in many areas.

One thing about it struck me, however. One thing, I can certainly say, was absolutely brilliant and must be explanatory for many other productions. The way ‘A Dangerous Method’ started. That, I have to say, was a genius and truly revolutionary technique.

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The first minute.

I’ll try to visualize the first minute of the film without spoiling much. It stars with a shot of Keira Knightley’s character, Sabina Speilrein, being driven by a horse carriage to a mental institution. It becomes obvious that she is mentally derailed as she is pushing away all of the nurses, screaming, and laughing. Let me get one thing straight: this whole sequence (that serves generally to explain how crazy Sabina is and the fact that she is entering a mental hospital) is only 57 seconds. It’s what comes after it that matters.

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A really amazing scene.

Afterwards follows a scene is which Michael Fassbender’s character, Carl Jung, enters a room, greets Sabina, and sits behind her. He then simply talks with the girl, aiming to help her and analyze the roots of her problems. This scene, I tell you, is one of the most brilliant things in cinematic history.

I met the well-established fantasy author Brandon Sanderson a while ago and he talked about the importance of having a ‘hook’ in you story, or, to quote him exactly, ‘the thing that makes the reader want to read more’. And this scene serves exactly as that, regardless of the fact that it’s a cinematic scene and not an intro to a book. I can’t explain what it is about exactly without spoiling much, but it hits you like a thunder out of a blue sky. It’s extremely powerful, very emotional, and really compelling.

During the scene, I couldn’t stop but wonder: ‘What? Where did this come from?’. The movie had just started and suddenly, BOOM, this. You have to watch the movie for yourselves to understand what exactly I’m talking about. One thing remains certain: it’s a brilliant technique to catch the viewers attention. Not only did I wonder what was going to happen later on in the story due to the numerous questions that the scene raised, but I was also instantly emotionally invested in the movie.

That’s what really genius about how ‘A Dangerous Method’ begins. Many movies catch your attention right after they start, but they do that through posing many question, introducing many new characters, and just being overall very cryptic. That way the viewer is supposed to want to watch more in order to get the answers to those questions and understand who the introduced characters are. And this works most of the time. But not as well as what David Cronenberg has done in ‘A Dangerous Method’.

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Why is it so amazing?

The scene makes you feel as if you have been watching the movie for at least an hour. It makes you think that the second/third act of the film has already started, or even finished, and you are truly excited to understand what’s about to happen. You get extremely emotionally invested in the story right from the first minute. While other production count on raising questions with their first scenes in order to fascinate your brain, ‘A Dangerous Method’ strives to excite your heart and make you truly involved in the story. You care right from the beginning.

A lot of this is due to the genius direction of that scene in particular. David Cronenberg has managed to give it a specific vibe that makes the viewer feel simultaneously melancholic and hopeful. Through simple, yet specific cinematography, the director enhances that, but also makes the scene feel more real and more serious. And through the genius dialogue he raises just the right questions, makes the viewer want to know what’s happening, while also visualizing what the movie’s general feeling will be and what ideas it will develop.

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Keira freaking Knightley.

Most of the scene’s power comes from Keira Knightley’s truly brilliant performance. It’s very rare for me to say that an actor has separated one specific performance of theirs from all those other great Hollywood ones, but Keira certainly managed to do that with her role as Sabina. The first scene in ‘A Dangerous Method’ is really so powerful and influential because of Sabina’s character, the way she behaves and the things she says. Just one minute after the movie starts, Knightley catches the viewer off guard with one truly amazing performance. I, personally, was stunned. I didn’t know what had happened or where that came from, honestly. The actress is, really, most influential factor to emotionally invest you in the story.

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It is genius.

It’s an art, really, to start a story. Especially when it comes to shooting the first scene of a movie. One has to visualize what the movie will be about, represent the general feeling of the production, ask the right questions, and get the viewer invested in the story. Many features fail to do numerous of those things and that’s why you probably often find yourself bored or confused until the second or even third act of most movies.

Not ‘A Dangerous Method’ through. This film manages to exceed in all the mentioned factors through a three minute scene. It’s one of the most emotional scenes I’ve even seen in the movie and it certainly managed to get me involved in the story and to make me care. I didn’t enjoy the film very much, but that doesn’t cloud my judgement of this: it is truly genius to start a production like that. Through one scene and everything that it does, the producers of ‘A Dangerous Method’ have made their movie a thousand times more powerful and provoking.

What did you think of this article? Did you enjoy it? Have you seen ‘A Dangerous Method’? What did you think of it? What about of the specific scene I’m talking about? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, please! Don’t forget to LIKE and SHARE this article if you enjoyed it!

Thanks for reading,

Mickey Angelov