SANDPOINT - "A Dangerous Method" is something of a change of pace for actor Viggo Mortensen and director David Cronenberg.
In their previous collaborations, the two created a pair of organized crime stories noted for their moral complexity and explosive kinetic energy. However, their third film, which explores the relationships between Sigmund Feud, Carl Jung and Sabina Spielrein that gave birth to psychoanalysis, draws the tension back into the power of the human intellect.
Residents have a chance to check the film out for themselves Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Panida Theater, complete with an introduction and a Q&A session hosted by Mortensen himself. The screening will benefit both the Panida Theater and KRFY Community Radio. Tickets cost $12 and are available at Pedro's, Pack River Potions, Eichardt's Pub and at the box office on the evening of the showing, if any remain. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
"I'm really glad this movie will make it to a screen in Sandpoint, and I'm happy that we'll be able to support the local arts in the process," Mortensen said.
That might not have been possible at all if not for the film's North American distributors. Thankfully, company officials decided to donate a release print for the event.
"They thought it was a great idea, which was very supportive of them," Mortensen said.
Then again, film fans likely have producer Jeremy Thomas to thank for the movie's existence in the first place. Thomas, who worked with Cronenberg previously on "Naked Lunch" and "Crash," has devoted his career to helping artists create less marketable work.
That more or less sums up much of Cronenberg's filmography. Take "A History of Violence," his first film with Mortensen, as an example. A lesser director might have turned the story of a mobster-turned-family-man confronting his old life into a generic but lucrative action-thriller. Under Cronenberg's hand, however, the movie is a moral no man's land populated by characters that may or may not be redeemable. It's dynamic, brilliant filmmaking, but not necessarily the fare that teens munch popcorn to on a Saturday night.
"The reason he stays fresh as a director is that he obviously likes what he's doing, and he's not trying to fit into other people's expectations," Mortensen said.
And in that sense, Cronenberg and Mortensen are kindred spirits.
Fresh out of Aragorn's armor in the mid-2000s, Mortensen's "Lord of the Rings" performance made him one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Rather than starring in blockbuster after tedious blockbuster, he chose to focus on more meaningful projects.
"When you get a lucky break, you've got to know what to do with it," he said.
Cronenberg proved a great professional partner for Mortensen's goals. After shooting "A History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises," the two took a break for a few years while Cronenberg handled the pre-production for "A Dangerous Method."
He initially cast Christoph Waltz, best known for Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," in the role of Sigmund Freud. However, when pre-production difficulties delayed the shoot, the actor had to drop out for another project. Mortensen was happy to take the job.
Well-known among his peers for his extensive role preparation, Mortensen hit the books and archival photos to piece together a sense of the legendary intellectual. However, he wasn't phased by the notion of portraying a historical figure.
"It didn't really bother me," he said. "In fact, it made some things easier because there's such a wealth of material available about the man."
Through his studies, Mortensen created a character with distinctive mannerisms, verbal cadence and prevailing self-containment. The process is one of his favorite parts of being an actor, so it's no wonder that he's thorough.
"If I had five years, I would have used those five years to learn the part," he said, later adding, "Sometimes the movie shoot itself isn't as interesting as the preparation, but with Cronenberg, it always is."
"A Dangerous Game" was no exception, and it brought its own share of new experiences. For one thing, Mortensen hadn't met most of his fellow cast members until arriving on set. While he knew Vincent Cassel (Otto Gross) from "Eastern Promises," his co-stars Michael Fassbender (Carl Jung) and Keira Knightley (Sabina Spielrein) were new acquaintances.
"They were great, and they fit right into Cronenberg's traveling circus," Mortensen said.
Filming started on May 26, 2010, and wrapped by July 24. Throughout the month, work progressed smoothly. Mortensen described his acting experience as an elaborate game of playing pretend.
"It's kind of a more layered and detailed version of what you do as kid," he said. "You simply have more tools at your disposal."
Meanwhile, the cast members gelled on and off the set. They often gathered after work to catch latest game in the 2010 World Cup. Mortensen credits Cronenberg's skilled oversight as a major factor in the productive and friendly environment.
"He's able to create a very harmonious atmosphere," he said. "It felt right being there. We knew we were doing something good."
The movie stands to do even more good right here in Bonner County. After Panida officials arranged the screening for "A Dangerous Method," grants chairperson Phyllis Goodwin wrote Mortensen requesting his attendance and was delighted when he agreed. With his involvement in the screening, it will likely be a major boon for both the Panida Theater and KRFY Community Radio.
As a local resident, however, Mortensen knows those organizations are too good to leave unsupported.
"It's important to do whatever we can to help keep them there," he said. "You don't know how much you'll miss them until they're gone."