Keira Knightley for Best Actress for A Dangerous Method
Originally fashioned as a star vehicle for Julia Roberts, and based on writer Christopher Hampton’s 2002 stage play The Talking Cure and the novel A Most Dangerous Method (1993) by John Kerr, A Dangerous Method (2011) depicts a semi-fictionalized account of the turbulent relationships between fledgling psychiatrist Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), his mentor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), one of the first female psychoanalysts.
Director David Cronenberg has stated he picked Knightley to play Spierlein because of her ability to transpose herself into another era and do period films. She was definitely a winning pick. I remember seeing A Dangerous Method when it first came out at a now-closed movie theater and being very impressed by the film, and mostly by Knightley’s incredible performance. It was one of those rare times where it’s the lead actress’ considerable acting skills, not the sure-fire plot twists, that keep you on the edge of your seat. As I wrote before, I’m not that fervently interested in the awards race nor make predictions. Yet 2012 was the year I actually expected Knightley to be nominated for any – any – major award – she wasn’t – and even watched the Academy Award nominations’ announcement to see if she received her much-deserved nod. And I was struck when she didn’t. It was the only time I went all “no-fucking-way!” about an Oscar snub.
Looking at Academy Award winners, you can see a certain pattern: mental illness and historical figures. Knightley played both at once this time, and yet… Nothing… Why? Her performance was nothing short of extraordinary. She made the most out of her very compelling character and gave some of the very best acting of her career. Actually, her performance in this film wasn’t just one of the best female performances of the year: it was the best performance of the year. She’s completely mesmerizing. She is able to bring to life Spierlein’s facets and the phases of her evolution as a woman and as a professional with considerable virtuosity, never oversimplifying her character’s trials and tribulations. Her muscles clench, unclench, and clench, then she opens up her mind and Knightley’s performance becomes even more interesting. It is so detailed that, if analysed over and over again, you can always find something new, intricate and fascinating. She gives her best and the result is highly hypnotizing. Knighley is absolutely fantastic and a joy to watch. She is a wonderful reminder of how enjoyable performances can be. Watching her act makes you feel ecstatic.
This year, Knightley’s nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as cryptanalyst Joan Clarke (pattern watch: historical figure) in The Imitation Game. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I believe that if she wins, it’s also to make up for her horrendous snub for A Dangerous Method. Cheers.