FLORENCE HOWE

activist, writer, and founder of the Feminist Press




Florence in Words

On Feral Teeth

February 20, 2012

Tags: film

I have to comment on the feral teeth of Keira Knightly in “A Dangerous Method.” I can’t get them out of my brain. But perhaps I should begin by saying that, while most people claim to look first at people’s eyes, I have always looked first at their teeth. The reason is simple: I had teeth so crooked that I learned never to smile except with my lips locked. My mother referred to me as a “dental cripple,” and I went from crooked teeth to braces, never showing my mouth to anyone.

So her teeth, large and animal-like, shooting out of a huge feral jaw, at first repelled me. I could feel my body cringing in my seat. She frightened me. And her story was also frightening, for her thin (and to me beautiful) body had grown up sexually excited by pain and other forms of cruelty inflicted by her father.

But this was to be a film about the work of Jung and Freud, or rather, about the younger Jung’s application of the older Freud’s “talking cure,” declared by the film makers as “A Dangerous Method.” Yes, we might ask, dangerous for whom? The patient Keira plays becomes a doctor who herself treats patients with the talking cure. So was it dangerous for her?

The danger in this film is to Jung’s family life, for his beautiful and rich blond wife is having babies and the too-handsome-in-the-film actor playing Jung quite easily falls for his patient, and breaks the taboo forbidding patients and doctors to become lovers. Or rather the danger has to do with the male libido—with Jung’s need for those feral teeth that I found frightening. Nothing makes this clearer, not even Freud’s apparent breaking with Jung over this taboo, than the fact that, though he has taken a second mistress, he doesn’t want to let go of the first one. She leaves him. He is depicted at the end as depressed, though he has his family of beautiful children and his wife, and even his new mistress.

Select Works

"Everyone concerned about global feminism, women’s contributions, and humanity’s future will be enhanced and enchanted by A Life in Motion.”—Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume I and Volume II
Lecture delivered by Florence Howe on January 8, 2011, at the Modern Language Association Annual Convention
“It is impossible to imagine women’s studies without Florence Howe. Myths of Coeducation shows her vision and courage, insight and dauntlessness.”–Catharine R. Stimpson, Rutgers University
A revised and expanded edition of the classic groundbreaking anthology of 20th-century American women's poetry, representing more than 100 poets from Amy Lowell to Anne Sexton to Rita Dove.

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