Keira Knightley's bold performance in David Cronenberg's 'A Dangerous Method' is splitting critics at the Venice Film Festival, who are finding her role as an uninhibited mental patient "fabulous" or laughable. Either way, those who've seen the film agree that her approach is extreme.

The film, which stars Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender as, respectively, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, premiered Friday in Venice, and Knightley quickly became the most debated aspect.

Variety calls her performance "problematic," saying that her "brave but unskilled depiction of hysteria at times leaves itself open to easy laughs."

Meanwhile, the Guardian's reviewer disliked the film overall, but wrote, "Knightley provides the Oscar bait." Likewise, Britain's Telegraph says Cronenberg "has coaxed a performance from Knightley so ferocious in these early scenes that it seems likely to become the film's main talking point. It's also a risky strategy, as Sabina's behavior is extreme to the point of being alienating."

The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy agrees that Knightley starts off at a high pitch, but praises her "excellent work as a character with a very long emotional arc" and that by film's end, "the performance modulates into something fully felt and genuinely impressive."

Movieline sums up Knightley's hysterics: "It's a lot of acting - maybe not good acting - but it sure gets the point across" and adds as her character gets better under psychoanalysis, "Knightley gets better scene by scene."

Will Canada prove kinder to Knightley? The film hits the Toronto Film Festival next week in advance of a November 23 U.S. release.

See the trailer here.

[via LA Times]