Carl Jung is a young psychiatrist practicing psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud's bold new approach to psychiatry. He is confident that he can get to the root of anyone's problems using Freudian tools like the interpretation of dreams and word association exercises. However, he gets more than he bargained for when he meets Sabina Spielrein. Sabina is diagnosed with simple hysteria, taken to screaming fits and violence, but when Jung begins to interview her, he begins to notice something different entirely. Sabina finds herself sexually aroused when humiliated, especially via spanking; this derives from feelings she had when her father was abusive on her, taking out his own frustrations with his wife's infidelities on his daughter via spanking. Since she is smart and plans on trying to become a doctor anyhow, Jung takes her under his wing, becoming an assistant in psychoanalytical experiments while also continuing her own analysis. Jung also writes to Freud, sharing his research and his results, and the two of them become great friends. Meanwhile, as Sabina begins to openly admit sexual feelings toward Jung, Jung attempts to keep his own desires for Sabina at bay. However, after Jung meets with Otto Gross, another psychoanalyst who believes monogamy is a farce and the physical expression of sexual desire is totally normal, he decides to jump in head first and begin an affair with Sabina. They engage in bondage, sadomasochism, and spanking on a regular basis. However, when Jung publishes his findings on her, along with some of her own research without giving her credit, this leads to her running to Freud for help. Once Freud has information on Jung's taboo affair, he begins to use it as leverage against him, leaving Jung in a tough spot: he wants to move into his position as the predominant name in psychoanalysis, but with Freud bullying him and Sabina posing the threat of exposure, he is short on options.
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Best part of story, including ending:
It's a fascinating tale of taboo romance and psychoanalysis. It consists of little more than characters sitting around and talking, but the dialogue is marvelous.
Best scene in story:
The first scene between Jung and Sabina, in which he discovers her arousal at the sound of spanking, is wildly erotic-- Fassbender and Knightley have great chemistry.
Opinion about the main character:
Jung is a brilliant man, and he is unflinchingly practical, despite his abundant flaws. Fassbender is a charismatic leading man, making a figure like Jung seem human.