A provocative, psychological, historical drama, which dives straight into the birth of psychoanalysis.
I thoroughly enjoyed how every theory blended with each character's ... well, characterization. Every protagonist seemed to be dominated by a particular psychoanalytic force: the id, ego, and superego, as well as the life and death drive, are each enacted through a character. I think the subtlety of the theory through individual character development is stunning, even if the vocalization of the theory may seem a bit too obvious.
As an undergraduate student and as a graduate student, I always had a bit of a fascination for Freud, Jung, and psychoanalytic theory. In my view it was far from the "too textbooky" criticisms that have littered online reviews. The theoretical parts of it didn't extend past what one might learn in an introductory to Psychology, Philosophy, or Literary Psychoanalysis course, or perhaps much beyond the common social understanding of Freud's work.
If anything, the relationships between the characters served to illuminate the theory in a visceral way.
I was completely fascinated by Sabina Spielrein, and was really impressed by Keira Knightly's performance as her character--a strikingly brilliant woman suffering from hysteria as a result of severe abuse as a child, and has since developed unusual preferences for gratification. The complicated tension between disgust and satisfaction, between humiliation and absolute ecstasy, is so challenging to digest.
You can't decide as a viewer whether or not you can align yourself with the main characters, and this imposed distance can be unsettling. There are so many psychological tensions in this film. So many internal battles that each of the main characters has to face. These tensions alone won me over for the movie as a fascinating film.