“The eating of the heart is a powerful image” HANNIBAL Season 3, Episode 1 “Antipasto” (Fuller, 2015)

Look, I know from the Fannibals sites that some people didn’t like Season 3, or at least not as much as one and two. I humbly beg to disagree. This season sees Hannibal exposed and ferocious, no longer wearing his “person suit” in which he was pretending to be the respectable psychiatrist, trying to help the FBI catch – well, himself. At the end of Season 2, he left most of the cast writhing in pools of their own blood, and we saw him drinking champagne on a plane to France. His psychiatrist, Bedelia, was by his side, wedded to him, it seems, by their shared responsibility for the death of her patient, whom Hannibal had referred to her. Obligated to him by his helping her cover up her killing.

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Hannibal’s fairy tale is set in Florence, Italy. You may remember a Hannibal of a different generation, in Silence of the Lambs, telling Clarice Starling that memory is what he had instead of a window, as she admired his drawings of the Duomo. Hannibal, it turns out, is an expert on pre-Renaissance Italian literature, particularly Dante, and wants the job of Curator and Translator at the Palazzo Capponi, which of course he gets, by killing the previous Curator and then consuming the man chosen to replace him: Dr Fell, who he meets and eats in Paris. Also by being able to recite Dante from heart at a moment’s notice:

Joyous appeared he in his hand to keep
my very heart, and, lying on his breast,
my lady, veil-enwrapped and full asleep.

But he awakened her, and of my heart,
aflame, he humbly made her, fearful, taste
I saw him, finally, in tears depart.

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Bedelia is no longer pretending not to know what Hannibal does, or of what he is capable. She has an insight into his Nietzschean ethos

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And Hannibal is loving Florence.

“I’ve found a peace here that I would preserve. I’ve killed hardly anybody during our residence”.

Well, the old Curator. And Dr Fell. And Mrs Fell. But the rude Professor Sogliato, who is a natural for dinner because he has been opposing Hannibal’s appointment and being, well, rude about his Italian – will he kill and eat him? No, that would not serve to preserve the peace.

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Bedelia has a flashback to her apartment, just after the bloodbath of the Season 2 Finale, where Hannibal is showering, washing off the blood. She asked him then what he had done.

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Bedelia is terrified of him, but still, they are living the high life.

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There’s a complication, of course, as can happen when you kill people (maybe eat them) and take their identity. This complication is a young scholar from England, Anthony Dimmond (Tom Wisdom from The Boat That Rocked and Avengers: Endgame) who worked for Dr Fell, cordially detested him, and won’t be too upset when he finds out that Hannibal is taking his place. Hannibal appears to show friendship, in one of those double entendres that Hannibal does so well

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We have another flashback to Hannibal’s extended feast on Abel Gideon, at which the only guest of honour was Abel himself.

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“you wish me to be eating oysters, drinking sweet wines and snacking on acorns.
All to make me tastier?”

Abel’s arm is hanging up in the basement being consumed by snails, to make them tastier. And Abel’s tasty flesh is being eaten by Hannibal

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At the dinner, Dimmond asks Bedelia (AKA Mrs Fell) if she is avoiding meat. She replies with one of the great vegan ripostes

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But what is she eating instead? Ah yes

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Dimmond, being a scholar, tells her

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Yes, Bedelia is being fattened up for a future feast. And she knows it.

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Dimmond gets his hopes up: “Is it that kind of party?” “It is not that kind of party” replies Hannibal. To Bedelia’s amazement, Dimmond gets up and leaves at the end of dinner. Alive.

But not for long. Hannibal is giving a lecture to prove his qualifications for the Curatorship. He lectures on mediaeval art, particularly drawing the comparison between Judas, who betrayed Jesus, and Pietro della Vigna, whose alleged treachery and suicide earned him a place in Dante’s Hell. Disappearing in the glow of his slideshow, Hannibal is soon replaced by the One whom Mads seems to be using as inspiration for his portrayal of Hannibal

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The theme of his talk is

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Lo fe gibetto a me de la mie case: I make my own home be my gallows”.

Realising that he is looking at her, and that he considers that she betrayed him (by resigning as his therapist), Bedelia gets up and rushes home to pack. Dimmond comes to the lecture, realises immediately that Hannibal has replaced Dr Fell, and they stroll through an exhibition of instruments of torture. Why do people love such exhibitions? In fact, why do we love stories about zombies, vampires, cannibals? Hannibal explains

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Or as Dimmond puts it

“What still slaps the clammy flab of our submissive consciousness hard enough to get our attention?”

Dimmond offers a sort of partnership with Hannibal. Big mistake. Since Will, Hannibal is not looking to take on new partners. Hannibal takes him home for dinner, just as Bedelia is about to leave, her bag packed and ready.

Wasting no time, Hannibal wallops Dimmond with a bust of Aristotle (appropriate on so many levels) and has a fascinating exchange with Bedelia as she wipes blood off her face, and Dimmond crawls painfully toward the door. He asks her, and us:

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She knew what he would do. She was curious about what would happen. She anticipated their thoughts, counter-thoughts, rationalisations. Is this (the bloody mess) what she expected? Yes, it was.

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He helps her off with her coat. She’s not going anywhere.

And nor is Dimmond, whose corpse Hannibal folds up into the shape of a heart and leaves in a distant cathedral – but more of that next episode.

And nor are we. We are also curious about what will happen. We also anticipate thoughts, counter-thoughts and rationalisations. We also expect things to happen, whether it be in this show, or in our own lives, filled with appetite and consumption and instruments of torture.

That’s participation.

As usual, Hannibal has the final word, in a line that sums up pretty much everything I have been trying to say about cannibalism, and the link to carnivorous virility, and our assumption that it’s OK  to eat anyone whom we classify as less than us.

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As Claude Levi-Strauss said:

“We are all cannibals”.

 

Next week: Beneath the Planet of the Apes

The First and Last Hannibal movie: HANNIBAL RISING (Webber, 2007)

Well, it’s the first Hannibal movie, because it starts with him as a child, and it’s chronologically the last one released. Unless #BryanFuller makes a movie, instead of Season 4 of the TV show. Or Sir Anthony Hopkins comes back as an octogenarian Hannibal, with his wife (Clarice – Jodie Foster or Julianne Moore would both be fine) running the meat business. Martha De Laurentiis @neoprod – I have a script treatment ready!

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This is the Hannibal film everyone loves to hate. We are treated to a sweet young Hannibal (Aaran Thomas) having to watch his beloved little sister Mischa being eaten by Nazi collaborators and deserters, and then discovering that he himself unwittingly joined the feast.

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From this, we deduce, came his hunger for human flesh. Like the desperate young crash survivors carving meat from the corpses of their dead teammates in Alive, his subsequent actions may not be acceptable, but become at least partially understandable. Psychopathy founded in trauma.

Hannibal of course would have hated this – remember that he told Clarice in Silence of the Lambs

“You can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You’ve given up good and evil for behaviourism… Look at me, Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I’m evil?”

Or as the 21st century Hannibal said:

when it comes to nature versus nurture I choose neither. We are built from a DNA blueprint and born into a world of scenario and circumstance we don’t control.

There are two streams of thought on the subject of evil: one, from Rousseau to Arendt, is adamant that morality requires an explanation for evil, while an alternative stream from Voltaire to Jean Améry, insists that it be left unaccountable. Clarice Starling and Dino De Laurentiis would seem to favour the side of Rousseau, while Harris and Hannibal, and many critics of the film, seem more aligned with Voltaire. Harris apparently faced the awful choice of accepting large sums of money to divulge the origin story, or else see it betrayed by another writer.

The opening image of a film, they tell you in film studies, sets the mood and the theme. This one opens with a spider-web.

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People are afraid of spiders, for reasons that I have never quite understood. Beware, this one seems to be saying, and we hear childish Hannibal in the background, telling Mischa to run and hide! But it’s just a game. Until the Nazis appear, with their Hiwis, or Lithuanian collaborators, led by the irredeemably despicable Grutas (Rhys Ifans), bandits who are all too willing to assist the SS, for their own profit.

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Hannibal’s parents are killed, and the Hiwis take over the lodge, desperate for food, and finding none.

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Except for the children.

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We do not witness the cannibal acts then, but in nightmare flashbacks eight years later. Hannibal (Gaspard Ulliel) is now a teenager, still mute from PTSD, in an orphanage which uses the former Lecter Castle. He is accused of not honouring “the human pecking order”

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Yes, he hates discourtesy. He won’t swallow bullying. Yet.

He escapes the orphanage, crosses Lithuania, Poland, East Germany (hops over the Wall, easy as anything) and arrives in his uncle’s home in Paris. Uncle is dead, and he moves in with his beautiful young Japanese aunt, Lady Murasaki (Gong Li, who is Chinese, but, ah well). Will there be romance as she helps him recover his voice?

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She teaches him about the Samurai code, in front of the armour of her ancestors, strangely evocative of a later Hannibal.

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She teaches him the art of fighting. And the treatment of enemies.

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A butcher in the marketplace insults Murasaki, and Hannibal is enraged. The butcher (a Nazi collaborator) becomes Hannibal’s first kill, and then his first human meat, after the chef explains the delights of eating cheeks.

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Hannibal presents Murasaki with the butcher’s head. When she objects that he did not need to do that for her, he replies

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Discourtesy is unspeakably ugly to Hannibal. Ah, so young, and already eating the rude. And already seeing cannibalism everywhere – looking at a fresco of Abraham on the mount, about to sacrifice his son, he asks

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So much about older Hannibal is revealed – the police inspector (Dominic West from The Wire) gives him a lie detector test – but he responds to nothing.

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Hannibal is also brilliant – the youngest student ever admitted into medical school. But he is still obsessed with Mischa and the men who took her from him. He can draw their faces from memory, but cannot remember their names. A dose of sodium thiopental, truth serum, with the Goldberg Variations (another Silence of the Lambs reference) playing in the background, gives him his mental break. Or maybe breaks something in him, depending on your propensity for behaviourism. He remembers that there was a bag of dog-tags left in the lodge, returns to the Soviet Union (no problem crossing the Iron Curtain for Hannibal apparently) and finds all the names. And Mischa’s teddy bear, and her bones. And one of the Hiwis, whom he dispatches, much as Will later dreams of dispatching Hannibal.

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He licks the blood off his glove, with some gusto, and prepares the cheeks for a fresh-air feast.

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Hannibal spends the rest of the movie tracking down the rest of the gang, who are now into respectable industries like human trafficking and drowning ortolans for lunch.

Along the way, there are interesting discussions of our topic – cannibalism. One of the gang tell Hannibal, as he is about to be killed:

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Survival cannibalism. Common in the days of sail, and in various famines. But the Inspector knows what happened, back in the USSR.

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Cannibalism happened on the Eastern Front, says the Inspector. This is not news to Hannibal. He is determined to find the gang leader, Grutas. The Inspector tells him (us) what a lovely guy Grutas is. He sawed off the head of the Rabbi at Kaunas.

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He walked away from his war crime trial because a witness got acid poured down her throat. So really, whatever Hannibal does, well, it’s OK with us. But the Inspector has decided Hannibal is insane.

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Murasaki tries to persuade him to give the gang up to the police. She can be quite persuasive.

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But Hannibal cannot make that promise. He has already promised Mischa – revenge.

At his first encounter with the villain, Grutas, he has an interesting outlook on cannibalism too.

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There you have it. Cannibalism is about love.

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Then the big reveal. Lady Murasaki is a captured by Grutas, Hannibal comes to the rescue and has Grutas at his mercy. Mercy is not a word Hannibal uses much, and when Murasaki asks him to stop, he says

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Grutas replies:

So did you. You ate her too. So why don’t you kill yourself? Pot Watcher fed her to you in a broth. You have to kill everyone who knows it, don’t you? You ate her, half conscious…

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Hannibal snaps, and carves M for Mischa on Grutas’ chest.

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Murasaki gives up, despite Hannibal’s protestations of love.

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Instead of following her, Hannibal stops for a quick snack on Grutas’ cheeks.

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Trivia time: Hannibal is not only a brilliant doctor, musician and cook, but he is also apparently ambidextrous. Check him out writing left-handed in this movie, whereas he is right-handed in all the others, and in the TV series.

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The film got a measly 16% on Rotten Tomatoes. Most criticism centres on the fact that it is not particularly scary, but that rather misses the point, IMHO. The question the film asks is: how do people overcome the social conditioning of their childhoods to become what they are – killers, cannibals, rapists, politicians? It may be genetic, as Hannibal tells Clarice: “nothing happened. I happened”. Or maybe the childhood itself offers a clue to how, as Clarice asked “you got that way”. The film offers a view of the latter – a gentle, loving little boy with, clearly, a brilliant mind, but so traumatised that he can think of nothing but revenge. His target – rude people and bullies. No one minds seeing them get their comeuppance. But you take a bite out of their cheeks, and suddenly everyone is convinced you’re a monster.

But here’s why I like this film:

  • The book and the screenplay are both written by the brilliant Thomas Harris, who of course created Hannibal. This is the only film in the series for which Harris wrote the screenplay
  • The Director is Peter Webber (Girl with a Pearl Earring)
  • There are two Hannibals in this movie (a 100% increase on all the other movies)! One at age eight, and the other a young man
  • It only takes Hannibal’s story up to his arrival in North America, leaving a nice narrative gap between that and his eventual capture and captivity by Will Graham in Red Dragon, which was perfectly filled by Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal (even if time shifted by a few decades)
  • It shows the humanity of Hannibal, his devotion to his sister, and his determination to hunt down her killers. If you don’t want your Hannibal to show humanity, then this can be a problem
  • It was a prequel. Every great character gets a prequel – Darth Vader, Indiana Jones, Vito Corleone, Mr Spock, Zorro, Batman – even Jesus has scored a few. Why not Hannibal?

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“He is the devil. He is smoke.” HANNIBAL Season 2 Episode 05 “Mukōzuke” (Fuller, 2014)

At its core, cannibalism is about food, eating, the joy of taste. This episode therefore commences with a comparison of the meals of Hannibal, free, prosperous, creative

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and Will, confined, subject to whatever gruel is dished up in the asylum.

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As Hannibal tells Jack:

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Hannibal eats food, not friends. He is cooking for Jack, again, making Jack perhaps the pre-eminent innocent cannibal of the series, since he dines there so often. But this time, he is pre-occupied, upset that his wife tried to kill herself, grateful that Hannibal stopped her. Hannibal discusses his own dilemma: as a doctor, he had no choice, but

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Hannibal is a good friend, says Jack. That, as we know, won’t last.

Beverly Katz has been neatly dissected and mounted into giant slides. As Will figures, she has been pulled apart layer by layer, as she would dissect a crime scene.

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Will asks to see her, and is given the same treatment Hannibal received in the film of Silence of the Lambs: straight-jacket, hockey mask and transported on a furniture trolley.

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He does his pendulum, re-enactment, this is my design, thing. He knows who killed Beverly, but cannot tell Jack, because Jack doesn’t want to believe it. Will does say that she will be missing organs:

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She is indeed missing kidneys. And guess what Hannibal’s having for lunch?

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Yep. Nice steak and kidney pie. Seems to be enjoying it too.

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So, as Clarice once asked, why does Hannibal do what he does? Abel Gideon has his own theory, not so different to the way Madds said in an interview that he chose to play him:

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He warns Will that he will never catch the Ripper – he will have to kill him. Another insight into where the series might be heading.

Hannibal now has a couple of people who suspect him: Will, of course, but also Abel Gideon, who Will brought to his house the night Gideon removed most of Chilton’s guts. He asks Chilton why, in those circumstances, he would bring Gideon back to “your hospital for the unworried unwell” [great Hannibal quip BTW]. Chilton claims it was not for “selfish reasons”. “Ah, selfishness” comments Hannibal

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He goes to meet Gideon, who is still interested in his satanic analysis:

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Outside the asylum, he is photographed by Freddie Lounds. You have to give her credit for bravery – Hannibal says something that would bring a chill to those who know him like we do, know his penchant for eating rude people:

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She goes in to interview Will, and is given the same instructions Clarice received in Silence of the Lambs:

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Will is using Freddie to contact his “admirer” – the one who killed the bailiff in his trial, hoping to get him exonerated.  Turns out to be the nurse in the “hospital for the unworried unwell”. Why? Well, smaller birds will mob a hawk.

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Yes, another elitist. Perhaps even a Nietzschean. He wants the hawks to work together. Happy to help Will any way he can. What favour can he do for Will? Will wants to make sure what happened to Beverly cannot happen again.

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Will dreams he is becoming the beast – antlers growing from his back. Hannibal is doing laps of the pool, which explains why he is in great shape and able to kill people who often seem somehow younger and fitter. Also, cold water is great for shifting blood stains. The nurse is the only other swimmer (obviously a very exclusive pool) and shoots Hannibal with a tranquiliser dart. He sinks, but that’s not a suitable death, so next we see him teetering on a bucket, bleeding out, and in a semi-crucifixion position.

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The nurse knows that Hannibal is the Ripper, and asks him

How many times have you watched someone cling on to a life that’s not really worth living? Eking out a few extra seconds. Wondering why they bother.

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The nurse, like Hannibal, is into becoming.

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Maybe your murders will become my murders. I’ll be the Chesapeake Ripper now!

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Jack arrives in the nick of time. But Hannibal has faced death, and therefore has grown. Now it’s Will’s turn.

 

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“I’m giving very serious thought to eating your wife”: “HANNIBAL” (Scott, 2001)

It is quite extraordinarily, in retrospect, to realise that this 2001 film was the first Hannibal Lecter film to be about Hannibal Lecter. He was very much a bit player in both Manhunter and Red Dragon (both based on the book Red Dragon) – he was in an asylum and visited occasionally by Will Graham, desperate for a clue as to the identity of the serial killer the FBI was hunting. The movie that made him a household name, The Silence of the Lambs, saw him still in that Baltimore Asylum for the Criminally Insane, but now he was a major figure, even though only on screen for a bit under 16 minutes. But very good minutes they were (he won the Oscar for it, and the film won five in total) and, importantly, we saw him escape, to rejoin us, the viewers, in the breathing world, as we crept, with wide eyes, back to the dark parking lot of the cinema after the credits had rolled.

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“I need to come out of retirement and return to public life.”

In Hannibal, he is free, and doing what he loves best – being an expert on Renaissance art and poetry in Florence, drinking fine wines, and occasionally eating people. But, as in the previous movies, and in the TV series, Hannibal takes his sweet time before he actually appears on screen. His image appears at 24 minutes: an archive video of him attacking a nurse who was careless with his ECG (any comments on why he attacks the nurse would be appreciated. It seems out of character for Hannibal: discourteous even).

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His voice appears at 28 minutes, and his person at 30. Hannibal never rushes things. Instead, the film starts with Hannibal’s nemeses: Mason Verger, intent on revenge and plotting to capture Hannibal and feed him to his pigs, and of course Clarice Starling, her career in tatters due to a combination of law enforcement ineptitude and toxic masculinity working to bring her down. She is caught on the news shooting a woman with a baby, even though that woman was a drug dealer who was shooting at her.

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Her only possible way to reinstate her career will be to work with Verger to capture Hannibal.

This wasn’t an easy film to make – sequels rarely are, particularly when they are following a film that did a lot better than anyone expected. And this film was made ten years after Silence, so there was a huge, pent up demand. There was also the brilliant book from Thomas Harris on which this was based; it had come out two years previously, and many, including the director of Silence, Jonathan Demme, the screenwriter, Ted Tally, and the star, Jodie Foster, considered the plot a bridge too far. All three declined to be involved in the new film. Lucklily, Anthony Hopkins was ready to get back in the saddle, so the film proceeded – without him, it would seem to have been unlikely.

So, sad not to get Demme back to direct, but hey, Dino di Laurentiis found a substitute: the brilliant Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise), who had just finished Gladiator and at first declined the script, as he thought it was another ancient history epic, and didn’t want to have to direct elephants crossing the Alps. Oh, it’s about a cannibal in Florence? OK then. The screenplay was first drafted by Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet and then written by Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List). And instead of the incomparable Jodie Foster, he chose, from a list of the greatest actors of the time, Julianne Moore, apparently the recommendation of Hopkins. di Laurentiis said of Jodie Foster’s refusal to take part: “when the Pope dies, they get a new Pope”. So it was off to a rollicking start.

Then there’s the supervillain. In Hannibal movies, there is always a much worse monster for us to hate, giving us licence to like Hannibal that much more. In this case, it is Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), heir to a huge fortune built on the cruel pork trade, a sadist and child molester in his youth.

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He is the only surviving victim of Hannibal: instead of killing him, Hannibal got him whacked on psychotropic drugs and suggested that he slice his own face off and feed it to the dogs. In the book, this is explained: Mason had adopted two dogs who were good friends, and put them in a cage with no food, to see if they would turn to cannibalism. Gratuitous cruelty and cannibalism – not what Hannibal is about at all. Hannibal’s cannibalism contains a nugget of justice. As the Asylum orderly Barney tells Clarice:

He told me that whenever feasible, he prefers to eat the rude. Free range rude, he called them.

Incidentally, Barney is portrayed by Frankie Faison (The Wire) who is the only actor to appear in all four Hannibal films up to this one.

Hannibal manages to communicate with Clarice throughout the film, usually by letter or phone call, explaining his point of view and questioning why she continues to serve her corrupt and venal masters.

Tell me Clarice, would you want to harm those who have forced you to consider it though? It’s perfectly OK to feel this. It’s perfectly au naturel to want to taste the enemy. It just feels so good.

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The camera lingers lovingly on Mason’s disfigurements: according to the DVD, Oldman spent six hours each day in makeup to make him so lovable. Hopkins, on the other hand, did not bother with makeup for this movie, allowing his advancing years and natural pallor to tell the story of the years since his escape.

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With Hannibal, there is always the question of who is the cannibal. In Red Dragon, was it Hannibal in his cell or Dolarhyde collecting movies of women he had killed and raped? In Silence, was it the same Hannibal in the same cell, or Jame Gumb, killing and skinning women to make a vest with tits? In this one, is it the Renaissance scholar Hannibal seeking a job as curator of the Capponi library or Inspector Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini), threatening a local pickpocket into ambushing Hannibal, hoping to sell Hannibal to Verger to be fed to his pigs? The pickpocket loses his femoral artery to a small knife that Hannibal keeps in his sleeve. He dies, but Pazzi gets the fingerprint he needs for the deal to go ahead and in a scene full of Catholic symbolism, washes his bloody hands in the fountain of Il Porcellino, a porcine reference to the greed of Judas and the cowardice of Pontius Pilate, as well as a foretaste of the pigs who have been bred to eat Hannibal. Verger and his thugs get the pigs flown to the US and primed to eat humans (pigs usually prefer not to). Pazzi later gets from Hannibal the same treatment his treasonous ancestor received in Florence 500 years earlier – hanging from the window with his bowels protruding. But not until Hannibal has offered the line of the movie:

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Hannibal has met Pazzi’s wife, Allegra (Francesca Neri), at the sublime opera of Dante’s sonnet A ciascun’alma presa from Vita Nuova, which Hannibal and Allegra recite to each other meaningfully, all about Beatrice eating Dante’s heart, and clearly referencing Hannibal’s growing obsession with Clarice.

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In a scene that reveals both Pazzi’s desperation to make Allegra happy, including risking his career and life to capture Hannibal, and Hannibal’s own burning love for Clarice, she asks him:

Allegra: Dr Fell, do you believe a man could become so obsessed with a woman from a single encounter?
Hannibal: Could he daily feel a stab of hunger for her and find nourishment in the very sight of her? I think so. But would she then see through the bars of his plight and ache for him?

Dante and Beatrice were nine years old when his obsession with her started. Hannibal’s obsession with Clarice started at a more mature age, but burns just as brightly.

The music, Vide Cor Meum, is by Hans Zimmer (Lion King, Gladiator, the Dark Knight trilogy and heaps more) and is so beautiful that it is used again in the TV series Hannibal, in the season finales of both the first two seasons. As she leaves with Pazzi, another couple brush past saying “let’s get something to eat!” Hannibal mutters to himself, and to us, “why not?”

Verger understands that the way to trap Hannibal is by threatening Clarice, and pays Paul Krendler (Ray Liotto), the man who has conspired to destroy Clarice’s career since she first rebuffed his advances, to fabricate evidence of collusion with Hannibal.

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“But not to help…”

She is suspended from the FBI. Hannibal goes shopping for fine furniture, and burglaring for medical equipment. He breaks into Clarice’s apartment in DC, where she has drunk herself to sleep, and leaves a collage of her face on a fashion shoot in a magazine. The game is afoot. He leads her to Union Station where he engages her in a discussion of her life, her future, and why the forces of the law, the law she loves and respects, have totally betrayed her.

Why are you so resented? You serve the idea of order, Clarice. They don’t. You believe in the oath you took. They don’t. You feel it is your duty to protect the sheep. They don’t.

As he leaves, Verger’s Sardinian hit-men hit him with a tranquiliser dart and drive him off. Now who will save whom?

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Hannibal is strapped to a forklift in a crucifixion position, his feet are to be fed to the pigs, then he is to be kept alive for several hours until the rest of him is given to them. She cuts him loose, leading to one of the funniest exchanges in the film.

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Clarice can deal with most of these thugs, but is shot while rescuing Hannibal, who picks her up and walks through the hogs. They leave him alone – since they cannot smell fear on him. He arranges for Verger’s helper to push the furious billionaire into the pig pen. Dinner is served.

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Krendler returns to his lakehouse, but Hannibal is already there. So is Clarice; Hannibal has removed the bullet and she is sedated. She wakes dressed in full evening gown and high heels and staggers downstairs where, in the most famous scene of the film, Hannibal has sawn Krendler’s cranium off, and is preparing to serve his brain. Of course, the brain has no pain receptors on its surface, so Krendler is awake and joins the meal.

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Most of this is fairly true to the book. Only the ending was changed, apparently to appeal to those whose morality could stand seeing a man eat his own brains, but not to seeing Starling, so long an honest cop, go over to Lecter’s side – the side of cynicism about authority and enjoyment of the finer things of life. Instead, she rebuffs him and with her remaining strength tries to stop the dinner, and then the escape. She hancuffs the two of them together, Hannibal goes to bite her, then to cut off her hand, but it is he that leaves minus one. That’s love.

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But then, there is the single tear – does she regret the opportunity to dance with the devil?

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I admit to preferring the story the way the author wrote it in the book. I think Hannibal would have too. Read the book and you will see that is the perfect denouement to the Hannibal saga. I think they compromised on the end to avoid controversy (although they did get away with feeding Krendler his own brain, so they weren’t totally devoid of courage).

I suspect that the idea of amputation of his hand came from Sir Anthony Hopkins, who had starred in Shakespeare’s Titus only two years earlier, in which he cuts off his hand, and his daughter suffers a worse fate involving both hands and her tongue. [I nearly said Hopkins had a hand in the decision, but I restrained myself].

Titus is also a cannibal movie, by the way. You can read my blog about it at Titus.

Why does Hannibal eat people? Clarice speculates on this earlier in the film, while she is still on the case, as Krendler asks her what she’s doing sitting in the dark.

Thinking about cannibalism. Aren’t you curious why he dines on his victims? To show his contempt for those who exasperate him. Or sometimes to perform a public service. In the case of the flutist, Benjamin Raspail, he did it to improve the sound of the Baltimore Philharmonic Orchestra, serving the not so talented flute player’s sweetbreads to the Board with a nice Montrachet at $700 per bottle.

Yes, Clarice, quite right. But also, like any cuisine, it’s a habit, or a preference. Hannibal simply cannot see any reason not to eat people, particularly rude ones. In the final scene, he offers to give it all up for her:

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BTW: note the books on Krendler’s fridge: Southern Cooking and Vegetarian Times. Our ethical choices: what we consider right, or what we consider delicious. Hannibal, unlike everyone else, makes his choices without hesitating. He considers them the same thing.

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Not sweet sorrow: “Savoureux” HANNIBAL Season 1, episode 13

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The finale of season one is named after what is usually the last course on a French menu – no, it’s not sweet, it’s ‘savoureux’ meaning savoury, and is defined as “a dish of pungent taste, such as anchovies on toast or pickled fruit”. If you didn’t know that (I didn’t), we can be confident that Hannibal did.

This is a final course, and with ratings being king in the TV industry, it was never certain that the show would be renewed (it was, tragically, cancelled after season 3) so this is a final of sorts, and not a sweet one.

It starts with Will trying to shoot a stag, chasing the bleeding animal through the undergrowth in thick night, only to come face to face with the stag-man, who we (but not yet Will) know represents Hannibal. He wakes up covered in sweat and panting (which seems, from all evidence, to be the only way Will ever wakes up), and finds his feet covered in mud. Will’s fevered imagination is starting to control his reality. Reality doesn’t get any better though, as Will throws up in the sink and finds, not last night’s beer and prawns, but a human ear.

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He calls the only person he can trust, the only person he shouldn’t – Hannibal Lecter. Jack arrives and arrests him. It’s all downhill from here, Will. The ear is Abigail’s, and so is the blood under his fingernails. Will even believes it himself; according to the evidence:

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Alana is furious at Jack for leaving Will out there when everyone could see he was breaking, but Jack replies that every decision he made about Will:

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That would be Hannibal. Whom Alana recommended. Well played. But Hannibal is torn up about Abigail and Will, or at least he tearfully tells his psychiatrist that he is. Hannibal wants a family, with Abigail as the child, replacing the sister who was eaten at a tender age. In framing Will for the murder of Abigail, he has seemingly lost that chance.

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Of course, with Hannibal, nothing is ever that simple. Like a good chess player, he is always several steps ahead of his opponents, but his game is not chess but becoming – he wants his protégés to become like him, or as much like him as possible. But he has real tears in his eyes. To become, they must go through challenges that may kill them. And as a Nietzschean, he knows the theory of amor fati – literally the love of fate. The death that so scarred him as a child, his little sister, will recur, again and again. Hey, no one said being an Übermensch is easy. He really was hoping this family thing would turn out. Maybe he still is.

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He tells Bedelia his philosophy – and a very Nietzschean, anti-metaphysical one it is.

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But Will has been arrested, and escapes (surprisingly easily) from the ambulance taking him to the asylum for the criminally insane. Who would have thought such a vehicle would need better security than a pair of handcuffs? He runs to – of course – Hannibal, telling him that he would have believed he might have killed Abigail, but no, not all the others. Hannibal plants the seed of doubt back into Will’s head, but Will wants to go to see where Abigail died.

They go back to the scene where Hobbs first tried to kill Abigail, and Hannibal points out that they haven’t found the body – except for the ear. He tells Will that if he was acting as Hobbs, they may never find the body – Hobbs used to eat his victims.

But Will has taken one of his intuitive leaps that made him so sought after in the FBI. He knows he could have killed Abigail, but

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He knows it was Hannibal. And Hannibal knows Will is on the precipice of becoming.

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Will pulls a gun on Hannibal. His greatest anger is not due to his realisation that Hannibal is the murderer, or that Hannibal has framed him. It’s that he realises Hannibal’s motives

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Jack arrives and shoots Will, in the very same corner of the very same kitchen where Will shot Hobbs. And Will mutters the same words Hobbs said to him, with the stag-man looking on.

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Hannibal sums up, as usual in a way that no one will fully understand.

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We are all becoming. He visits Bedelia, but not empty handed

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It’s a veal dish, and Bedelia makes the usual comment that veal draws among those whom Hannibal would consider less than enlightened

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But Bedelia sees more than she lets on.

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But right now, as Hannibal goes to visit Will in the Baltimore Asylum for the Criminally Insane, he has everything just the way he wants it. The background music is the opera from Hannibal (the movie). Will now knows who Hannibal is, and is using his title respectfully.

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Hannibal’s face at the end of the season is ‘savoureux’.

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I’m so sorry Jack: “Relevés” HANNIBAL Season 1 episode 12 (Fuller, 2013)

This episode is called “Relevés”, an obscure term in the French menu – it comes sort of after the main course, but is not the Rôti (roasts) of episode 11; this one is joints – big butcher joints, served with heavy accompaniments and garnish. Appropriate for a meaty episode, in which Hannibal takes steps not just to cover his own tracks, but to lay a path of suspicion to Will, who has been behaving very strangely lately, thanks to his encephalitis (which Hannibal has also covered up). The real meat of this episode, though, is its treatment of mental illness – where it starts (physical and/or psychological) and how it develops, and the paucity and inadequacy of treatments.

At the start of the episode, everyone is starting to recover. Georgia Madchen, who killed her friend and witnessed Hannibal killing the doctor who knew about Will’s condition, is in an oxygen tank, awaiting shock treatment which may restore her memory.

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But she doesn’t want to remember.

Hannibal has brought Will one of his gourmet concoctions: “Silkie chicken in a broth: a black boned bird prized in China for its medicinal value since the seventh century. Wolfberries, ginseng, ginger, red dates and star anise. Will’s bemused response, as though Hannibal was his Jewish mother, making chicken soup to treat a psychic crisis that just seems to get worse:

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Hannibal also does not want Georgia to recover her memory, because he is vulnerable, even if she was unable to see his face. She wakes up in her oxygen tent and finds a plastic comb, naturally, she starts to comb her hair, and naturally the static creates a spark that ignites the oxygen.

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So that leaves Abigail as apparently the only one who could spill the fava beans on Hannibal. She is busy writing her book with Freddie Lounds, who tells her she knows what killers look like

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She looks for a specific brand of hostility. She sees it in Will Graham, every time she looks at him. Very convenient for Hannibal. But Will has released himself from hospital, and is starting to realise that the spate of copycat deaths are all the same, but slightly different, to the murders they copied – the copycat killed all of them, including Georgia, who saw his face. Will is furious that Georgia was misdiagnosed and misunderstood her whole life, and doesn’t want the same thing to happen with her death, which Jack is treating as suicide.

Will’s vehement reaction worries Jack, who consults Hannibal, allowing Hannibal to plant the seed of suspicion: does Will suffer from a mental illness that would allow him to do things he doesn’t normally do?

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That’s true for Will, but even more true for Hannibal, who sees himself as a species apart from the common herd, an Übermensch, who has cast off normative humanism for his own ends, which we are yet to understand.

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Will is visiting Abigail in hospital. They discuss the nature of killing. Will admits killing her dad was terrifying, but then made him feel powerful. She replies that

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She wanted to escape, but Will is doubtful

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Her dad is still out there, in the form of the copycat. Will thinks he can catch him,

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Jack has been visiting Bedelia, who has covered for Hannibal (as any professional psychiatrist would) and has been asking about a case in which a patient, referred to her by Hannibal, tried to kill her, but luckily died by swallowing his own tongue ( a reference to Multiple Miggs in Silence of the Lambs). Hannibal, Jack points out,

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Hannibal asks what she told Jack?

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She doesn’t know quite what Hannibal is trying to do with Will (it seems to us, the omniscient spectators, that he wants to turn Will into a clone of his own powerful self)

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Will is thinking clearly again, he tells Hannibal, and starting to understand the copycat killer that so baffles the FBI. Georgia was killed for seeing the killer, who ended up framing her for it, but

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Now it’s personal. Will realises it could be someone at the FBI or the police. He doesn’t, however, realise what we realise, that he is in the same room with the killer. Like a pantomime, we feel like shouting at the screen: look behind you! But we don’t, because we don’t have interactive TVs (yet), and also because we like Hannibal, and don’t really want to see him unmasked (yet). But Will’s clarity, and Abigail’s book, are both threats to Hannibal. And he has only one episode of Season 1 to neutralise them.

Fortunately for Hannibal, everyone is on the wrong scent. Jack is still convinced Abigail is the killer, while Freddie is still convinced it is Will, and tells Jack so.

Will takes Abigail out of the hospital, back to the crime scene – her home in Minnesota. Jack is furious and goes to see Hannibal, who admits to Will’s confused mental states, where he loses time and doesn’t know what he has done. He plays Jack a selected section of the recording of his discussion with Will about the murder of Melissa Schurr.

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Together with Hannibal’s revelations about Will’s mental state, Jack is starting to suspect Will.

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Will had told Hannibal, who hadn’t told Jack, that he was getting so close to Hobbs that

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Now he has Hobb’s daughter, who Hobbs intended to kill. Jack fears the worst. As for Hannibal:

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Hannibal is sorry, but not, as Jack thinks, for hiding the “truth” about Will’s mental state. He is truly sad and sorry, for losing his friend, his only friend, feeding him into the jaws of the justice system.

Why does Hannibal do these things? Abigail asks him, and he tells her the truth, at last. He called the house to warn Hobbs they were on their way. Why? she demands. And this is crucial to an understanding of Hannibal:

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He killed Marissa, hoping that Abigail would kill the victim’s brother. Abigail is another of his projects

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Hannibal believes, as Dolarhyde says in Manhunter, that the people who are killed in these becomings are not real: “You alone know the people I use to help me in these things are only elements undergoing change to fuel the radiance of what I am Becoming. Just as the source of light is burning.” Abigail’s Becoming is far more important than Nick Boyle. But Abigail is scared of Hannibal now: he tells her that he has killed far more people than her father.

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Will he or won’t he?

Next episode – the season finale.

 

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“Madness can be a medicine”: HANNIBAL Season 1 Episode 11 (Fuller, 2013)

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We’re finally at the main course of this extended French banquet that makes up the episodes of Season 1. This episode is called Rôti, which means roast. The dead animals are coming out of hot, dark ovens, cooked, carved, and being eaten. And the accompanying sauce is a healthy dose of Existentialism, Hannibal Lecter style.

This episode is all about identity, and identity is all about existence: what is real, what exists and how can we be sure? Here is Sartre’s view of existence from the novel Nausea: the character who sees himself usually as a man named Roquentin, sitting under what seems to be a chestnut tree:

…the diversity of things, their individuality, were only an appearance, a veneer. This veneer had melted, leaving soft, monstrous lumps, in disorder — naked, with a frightful and obscene nakedness.

Roquentin concludes “My existence was beginning to cause me some concern. Was I a mere figment of the imagination?”

Most of the characters are losing their footing in this episode, and some are losing all touch with reality.

Abel Gideon has lost touch with his identity. Thanks to Dr Chilton’s “psychic driving”, Gideon came to believe he was the Chesapeake Ripper. Of course he isn’t – that’s Hannibal, and Hannibal is none too pleased to have someone else take credit for his ‘work’. Hannibal discusses the situation with Chilton over dinner: Kudal, a sheep gut curry. Lots of useful metaphors in this dish – guts because we are getting inside all the characters at last, and sheep? Well, sheep are used (rather unfairly IMHO) as allegories of blind obedience – going where the leader goes, following without question. Chilton thinks psychic driving is something of this sort – lead the patient to the conclusion you have already drawn.

Hannibal points out that Gideon was an ideal patient to be manipulated:

Chilton suggests Gideon is a psychopath, but Hannibal squashes this idea:

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So, if Gideon is not really a psychopath, he is just a common killer, a domestic violence offender who went over the edge into serial killer. Chilton told him he was the Ripper. Alana then told him he was not in a state of mind to know who he was.

Chilton feels like his is going to be blamed (especially since Gideon is planning to sue him). Gideon escapes, as he is hoping to attract the real Ripper, who, he hopes, will tell him who he really is, but Will understands that the Ripper will kill Gideon, for taking credit for his ‘work’.

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Realising Gideon is not the Ripper, Chilton just wishes he had been more curious about how common minds work. Hannibal replies:

Thus, the sheep’s gut curry.

The psychic driving didn’t work as hoped, Hannibal tells Chilton, because, once a patient is exposed to the methods of manipulation, he will push back.

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Will Graham is not aware of Hannibal’s manipulation, or of his now chronic encephalitis. He is having nightmares about water: tsunamis of water at crime scenes, melting clocks à la Dali, hallucinations of water pouring down the walls in the BAU. He imagines Jack is accusing him, Will, of being the killer they seek.

Will is lost. He feels crazy. Is that your worst fear, asks Hannibal?

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Gideon’s battle with identity is brought into focus when he kidnaps Freddie Lounds, so that she can document his vengeance on Chilton, and draw the Ripper, who he knows is an “avid fan” of Freddie’s journalism (the term “avid fan” is from the book and movies of Red Dragon).

Gideon describes his existential crisis to Freddie.

He then proceeds to open up Chilton and remove an amazing number of his organs, without actually killing him:

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When the FBI bursts in, Freddie is keeping Chilton alive, and Gideon has gone. Will is waiting in Gideon’s car, and takes him, not to the FBI, but to Hannibal’s home. Why? He is convinced that this is not Gideon he has captured, but his dead nemesis, Garret Jacob Hobbs. Hannibal helpfully tells him that there is no one there at all, which tips Will right over the deep end of his identity/existential crisis:

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Will has what Hannibal describes as a “mild seizure” and questions Gideon about whether he is the man who claimed to be the Ripper. Why “claimed”?

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He sends Gideon off to hunt Alana. He then tricks Will into going after Gideon. They meet up, two lost souls seeking identity.

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At the end, we have the fascinating session of Hannibal with his psychiatrist, Bedelia. He tells her that Will is troubled, that Hannibal sees his madness and wants to contain it, like an oil spill. Oil, she tells him, is valuable, what is the value to Hannibal of Will’s madness?

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And finally we come to the crux of Hannibal’s own identity crisis. He is not the loner that he likes to affect.

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Bedelia asks “Do you see yourself in his madness?”

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They discuss side-effects, that they can be temporary, or can be beneficial:

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Will does not present Hannibal with problems from normal life. What does he present?

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Now we’re talking abandoned identities!

 

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