My favorite scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the one where Clark Griswold is in the department store while the family is out shopping. Distracted by the extremely hot clerk behind the lingerie counter he goes on and on about how it couldn’t be any hooter hotter in the store and how the weather outside is a bit nippley. It’s a three minute master class on the idea of the Freudian Slip, where someone accidentally says what’s really on their mind (usually related to sex) instead of what they meant to say.
One of this week’s new releases is about the man that’s named after, Sigmund Freud. A Dangerous Method, directed by David Cronenberg, is a story about Freud (Viggo Mortenson) and his protege Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and a debate they have about the methods of treating patients. One patient in particular, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightly), forms the crux of their debate. She is suffering from problems that are related to what seems to be sexual abuse in her past. But her intriguing personality and situation wind up fascinating Jung and the two begin an affair. While not a traditional love triangle the movie is still about the relationships between the three of them.
The movie’s one poster sets up the drama between the three characters nicely. Possibly the first time the principles of a Venn diagram have been utilized for movie marketing we see Knightly front and center, with the faces of Mortense and Fassbender off either shoulder, their faces bleeding into hers (or is it vice-versa) so the images overlap a bit.
Below her face is the explanation for the audience that this is based on a true story and who the characters are that we’re looking at. At the top is a short pull quote from a review by The New York Times. Between those two elements it’s clear the aim is for a higher-level of audience here but Cronenberg’s past film titles – both of them with Mortensen – are thrown in below the title for good measure.
The first trailer (not counting multiple international versions) by introducing us to Freud and Jung before showing us Sabina and what influence she has on the dynamic between the two. She present Jung with a most interesting case as she seems to be excited by the idea of being punished. When he decides to give in to his desire and begin an affair with her it impacts both his relationship with his mentor and, naturally, his wife, who we saw previously he sometimes uses as a test subject for his treatments.
The trailer is all about selling the idea that repression is not only bad but unhealthy. The characters frequently talk about giving in to their desires. But while there may be some titillation factor here the spot also makes it clear that the move as a whole is a much more staid drama that is meant to highlight the performances of the two male leads plus Knightly than it is some sort of sexual drama. Sure there are bits of that but I think as a whole there’s more sitting around talking than anything else, which is a pleasure when you’re looking at a cast like this.
The movie’s official website opens by playing the trailer, which is worth rewatching if you haven’t seen it in a while. Closing that brings you to a repurposing of the key poster art. Also on the front page are prompts to buy the soundtrack album, a short synopsis and an invitation to read about the real life events that have inspired the movie, something that I always like to see on the sites for movies like this. That section lets you view a timeline of events or check out character-specific write-ups.
The first traditional section of content is “About,” which acts like a nicely navigable set of production notes. There are sections here for The Design, The Locations and more as well as more information on the real relationships that power the drama here.
That cool design is also found in the other sections, starting with “Cast” which lets you find out more about the actors and “Filmmakers” which does likewise for those behind the camera.
“Reviews” has small quotes from early reviews of the movie but, as is too often the case, no links to the full story.
There are 25 stills, including a few behind-the-scenes shots, in the “Gallery” and “Trailer” just has one video.
The Facebook page for the film is a modest affair, with photos and videos and regular updates on the cast and director’s promotional activities.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing that I was privy to or otherwise aware of.
Media and Publicity
While there had been other buzz around the movie prior to this some major news was made when it was announced (Los Angeles Times, 7/26/11) the movie would appear at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. Prior to that, though, it would be among those at (Hollywood Reporter, 9/2/11) at the Telluride Film Festival. At almost the same time it appeared at the Venice Film Festival where it picked up mixed buzz as a whole and specifically for Knightly’s performance (Los Angeles Times, 9/2/11).
Around the time of the Toronto/Telluride debut a big feature (Hollywood Reporter 9/7/11) on how the film was made and what happened with various casting just before filming was published that certainly brought a level of attention – even if it was mostly within Hollywood circles – to the film that I don’t think it had before.
Yeah, there’s certainly an element to the marketing here that is just hoping the promise of some 19th century sex is enough to pull in some parts of the audience. But that’s relatively mild when compared to what I think is a strong and classy push for the film. There’s a concerted effort to keep this campaign, I think, non-smutty and sell it based on the strength of the performances of the three leads and the idea that they’re all given some meaty relationship based drama to work with.
The poster, trailer and website all add up to a nice cohesive whole that I think sells the movie pretty well and should appeal to the kind of people who look forward to late-November releases with the same fervor others anticipate Memorial Day at the theater.