Don’t play with your food… HANNIBAL Season 3 Episode 7, “Digestivo”

Pigs and people. Are they identically different, like Hannibal and Will?

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Why do we consider pigs uncontroversially edible, and yet are so shocked at Hannibal or Mason eating human? [If you have the answer to that, please let me know – I’m up to 65,000 words and still haven’t come to a conclusion]. We use them in gruesome experiments because they are like us, but then justify it by saying they are not really like us at all. This episode is all about pigs and people interchangeably being used, abused, and prepared for dinner.

Pigs of course are remarkably similar to humans – have you ever seen a butcher carrying a pink corpse into the shop and wondered for a moment who he has killed? Geneticists have proved the similarity:

“We took the human genome, cut it into 173 puzzle pieces and rearranged it to make a pig. Everything matches up perfectly. The pig is genetically very close to humans.”

The episode is called Digestivo, which in Italian is an after-dinner drink, usually a liqueur or bitter, which is meant to settle the stomach. We have, in this episode, finished consuming the plot of the book and movie Hannibal, which follows Mason’s quest for revenge. Next episode, we go to the central plot of Red Dragon, which of course pre-dated the other books but, by the brilliance of Bryan Fuller, is readily reimagined as a later time in this new universe.

Mason always carries a little knife that belonged to his father. Perhaps it’s the same one that he used to slice off his face. His father would test the depth of fat on a pig’s back by poking him or her with this knife, something neither the pig nor farmer found terribly acceptable. Now he is doing it to Hannibal. It’s clear that he is planning to turn Hannibal into a pig before he eats him.

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Of course, there’s many a slip, as they say, or as Nick Cave says:

“If you’re gonna dine with the cannibals, sooner or later baby you’re gonna get eaten”.

Or as Alana warns:

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To the sublime tones of the Mozart Piano Concerto 21, Hannibal and Will are dressed and brought to Mason’s table. In the opulent dining room of Muskrat Farm, Mason tells Hannibal that “I snatched Will Graham right out of your mouth.” He is referring to Hannibal’s plan to eat Will’s brain, foiled by the arrival of the Italian police, who were in Mason’s pay.

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Hannibal and Mason compare their depth of reading, as Hannibal reminds Mason of the biblical story of Jezebel, who was, like Mason’s face, eaten by dogs. Mason in return spouts a news story he read about “that German cannibal” (he can’t remember the name of Armin Meiwes?) who advertised on the Internet for someone who wanted to be eaten.

The cannibal and the intended meal ate the man’s penis together before the latter died and was packaged up in the freezer. Mason’s assistant, Cordell, arrives hilariously at that moment with some pork sausages, thus emphasising the human/pig parallels.

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“Go to all that trouble to eat a friend and you overcook his penis. They ate it anyway, they had to, they committed. But they didn’t enjoy it.”

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Mason reveals part of his plan – he likes Will’s face, and intends to graft it onto Hannibal before he eats him. The rationale is that Will and Hannibal were both there watching as the dogs ate Mason’s face. They banter pleasantly (Hannibal shows no fear) about the order in which Mason will eat the various parts of Hannibal’s body. Everyone loves to chat about cannibalism! Will’s banter is a little less polite, as he takes a healthy bite of Cordell’s cheek, much to Hannibal`s amusement, and is left with a bloody chin, reminiscent of Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Will has become at least a functional cannibal.

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Cordell sews up his own face, then advances on Hannibal with the Verger branding iron. He brands Hannibal with the Verger emblem.

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Hannibal is being turned into an edible pig, because as Mason admitted, he did not really fancy eating human flesh. Much easier to eat the animal that daddy made his fortune exploiting, than to eat the man who consistently outsmarted him.

“Mason would have preferred to brand your face. He fought bravely, and with his own funds, against the humane slaughter act, and managed to keep face-branding legal.”

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Part of what supposedly makes us superior to other animals is the power of speech. Pigs can grunt and scream eloquently, but they can’t form their words into either maxims or complaints. The tongue is crucial, and Cordell tells Hannibal he intends to

“…boil it, slice it very thin, marinate it in olive oil, garlic, parsley and vinegar.”

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Cordell describes the rest of his plans, in something almost out of a cooking show. But looking down appreciatively, he adds

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“Every day I’ll feed Mason some new part of you. And don’t you worry Dr Lecter, you will always be cooked to perfection.”

Anyway, we know that nothing like that is going to happen, because we still have six episodes to go. AND SEASON 4 [please?] The rescue involves Alana and Margo, who find that Mason kept Margo’s eggs and that there is a surrogate having her baby.

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A pig, of course. Not too successfully; the baby is dead, which makes her fighting mad. They head off to kill Mason. First, they release Hannibal, because he has to save Will (about to have his face cut off without anaesthetic). Alana knows that Hannibal promised to kill her at the end of Season 1. But she has no other choice if Will is to survive.

“You’re the only one who can save Will. Promise me you’ll save him?”

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The “abyss” that Heidegger described between human and animal is further breached as Mason is eaten by his pet eel. Or chokes as he eats the eel. All lines are crossed.

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Having saved Will, Hannibal finally meets up with Chiyoh. She is willing to watch over him, but not in a cage: “Some beasts shouldn’t be caged.” Her obsessive hunt, she tells him, was motivated not by his plight or hers, but Mischa’s.

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“Yes,” says Hannibal, “but I did not kill her”.

We see the broken teacup that has bothered Hannibal throughout the books, movies and this TV series. Can time reverse? Can we undo what has been done?

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As he waits for Will to recover and awake, Hannibal is working on some higher level calculus, presumably still trying to work the maths on how to reverse time.

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But Will is having none of it.

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“I miss my dogs. I’m not going to miss you. I’m not going to find you. I’m not going to look for you. I don’t want to know where you are or what you do.”

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“You delight. I tolerate. I don’t have your appetite.

Goodbye Hannibal.”

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The digestivo here is a bitter drink – look at Hannibal’s face. Takes a hell of an actor to portray strong emotion so simply. Will has divorced Hannibal. But Hannibal is not giving up – he never does. He escapes before the FBI arrive, but then returns and surrenders.

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Next episode, Will takes on the Red Dragon, but – can he do it without Hannibal? Silly question really, don’t know why I bothered asking it.

Remembrance of Things Past: HANNIBAL Season 3 Episode 4: “Aperitivo”.

There was a “Hannibal” in Proust: Comte Hannibal de Bréauté-Consalvi in The Guermantes Way. Now there is some Proust in Hannibal – everything in this episode is à la recherche du temps perdu – “Remembrance of Things Past” or, more accurately, “In Search of Lost Time”.

Hannibal, let’s be clear, gets into people’s heads (including those of his loyal Fannibals). That of course is his job as a psychiatrist, but he takes it well beyond work hours, getting into the heads of everyone with whom he deals, including Miriam Lass, who was his captive for a long time, and shot Frederick Chilton, because Hannibal was in her head.

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It’s episode 4, and we are finally finding out what happened to all the people knifed, shot and pushed out of windows (or made to eat their own faces) in the previous season. Those still alive have it in for him, are hunting him in their own ways. Mason Verger, whose fortune is based on breeding and killing pigs, wants to catch Hannibal and feed him to those pigs. He has offered a reward of one million dollars for his capture. Chilton, less one eye and half his teeth from Miriam’s bullet, just says “Happy hunting!” Verger’s words about Hannibal are taken from the Bible, the Book of Job, where Satan tells God he has been “going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it”. He is relating Hannibal to a supernatural being: Satan. But also to an edible being: a pig. This can’t end well.

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We know Will was cut up good in his last dance with Hannibal, but we get a new perspective in the next scene after the credits – we are inside Will’s body cavity, in the coil of guts, looking at the stomach skin as it is punctured by Hannibal’s linoleum knife. Waking up in the hospital, he is visited not by Abigail, as he had hoped and imagined in episode 2, but Chilton, who wants help catching Hannibal, who would be a prize specimen for his “hospital” for the criminally insane.

Will spurns Chilton’s offer of compassion and friendship, which leads to one of Chilton’s best lines of the show:

The optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds;

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Will is still imagining scenarios – in the next scene, he and Hannibal are plunging knives into Jack Crawford in a scene that could only have been inspired by Julius Caesar.

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But Will finally didn’t go with Hannibal, and Jack’s not dead – he’s tracking to Will’s boatshed to seek Will’s help, just as he did at the beginning of Red Dragon, where the whole saga started. Will admits that he warned Hannibal, wanted him to run, because “he was my friend”,

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Alana is still alive too, despite being pushed out of a first storey window. She wakes up full of rods that hold her together. The doctors have told her that a lot of marrow got into her bloodstream from her multiple broken bones, so she should expect to think differently. And she does.

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She goes to see Mason Verger, who tells her he has found religion, been saved by the risen Jesus or, as he familiarly calls him “the Riz”. As a believer, he says he has forgiven Hannibal. Alana is not so convinced.

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Jack remembers his apparent death at Hannibal’s hands, but has somehow recovered. His health, not his career – he has been forced to retire from the FBI. The culture has found a new nightmare to slap its clammy flab and ruin its sleep.

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He also remembers waking up in hospital, lying next to Bella, his wife, who is continuing to die without him as it turns out. He takes her home, sits with her, holds her while her heart stops and her brain dies. He dresses for church and visualises their wedding, but it’s a funeral, she is in a casket, and there is a splendid bouquet from – who else – Hannibal. The card contains a John Donne poem and finishes “I’m so sorry about Bella, Jack”. Fighting to the death does not, apparently, reduce the respect or affection Hannibal feels for his opponents.

Everyone, everyone alive that is, wants to find Hannibal, and most of them want to kill him. What does Will want, as he embarks on a sustainable sailing voyage to Europe to find Hannibal? We don’t know. Mason Verger is talking transubstantiation – his face has been (somewhat) restored by extensive surgery, now he wants to transubstantiate Hannibal. In most ceremonies

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He is planning a more elaborate ceremony. He tells his major-domo nurse Cordell

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Alana is helping, telling Verger that Hannibal will be traceable because, wherever he goes, he will be ordering the very best wine, truffles, etc. She tells him “You’re preparing the theatre of Hannibal’s death. I’m just doing my part to get him to the stage.”

It sounds like they are all conspiring against poor Hannibal. But remember what Alana told Jack when they thought they were outsmarting him – Hannibal is always in charge of the narrative. Whatever the others are doing, he wants them to be doing. Or as Bedelia said, he is drawing them to him. Nietzsche wrote:

“In your friend, you should possess your best enemy. Your heart should feel closest to him when you oppose him.”

While everyone else is remembering things past, or searching for lost time, Hannibal is making friends.

The Young cannibal: PIGSTY (Italian: PORCILE), Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1969

Pasolini’s films were usually brilliant, but rarely easy to watch. They were not designed as entertainment, but to make a point, usually political, and even then don’t ever go straight to it, but leave it up to the viewer to interpret. Some of his films were extremely graphic – his final film, Salo, was based on de Sade and was particularly difficult to watch. He was murdered soon after that one was released, so who knows what might have come next?

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The opening credits roll over some very cute pigs in a sty, although they are not a major part of the rest of the movie, until the end. I guess for Pasolini they represent the European bourgeoisie, which I think is appallingly offensive. To the pigs.

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Two separate stories are being told, interwoven. Segments of one are followed by the other, or sometimes the same one again. One story is set in 1967 and is about a German industrialist who looks a lot like Hitler, his son Julian, described by his mother as a “Mannerist San Sebastian”, and his radical fiancée Ida who joins protests to piss on the Berlin wall.

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Julian will not go with her to the wall, nor even kiss her – he becomes catatonic after telling her that he has another love. Turns out to be the pigs in the porcile (sty). He prefers them to the hedonistic existence of his father who makes an alliance with an old rival, Herr Herdhitzel, even though he knows of that rival’s involvement in the Holocaust, and could destroy him.

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The locals arrive to tell of Julian’s fate, eaten by the pigs. Like Sebastian in Suddenly Last Summer, Julian is eaten by those he loved, or lusted after, or ate.

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But the industrialist doesn’t want to spoil the celebrations, and tells the locals:

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The other is set sometime in the middle ages (judging by the weapons and armour) and in a volcanic waste-land. A young man, called only “the young cannibal”, wanders around catching and eating whatever he can find, including lone soldiers.

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He joins up with other brigands who wander the smoking hills catching, killing and eating, throwing their victims heads into the volcano. When he is caught and prepares to be executed, tied down to four wooden stakes and left for the wild dogs to tear to pieces, he utters the words for which the film is most famous:

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The young cannibal is a mirror image of Christ, killing his father instead of being killed, tied to the ground instead of raised on a cross, quivering with joy instead of asking why he has been forsaken. For Nietzsche, God is dead. For Pasolini, we have eaten him.

Cannibalism is usually defined as the eating of human flesh by humans. There are a lot of grey areas (and pink ones when pigs are involved). We eat them, they eat us, we eat each other. It’s about greed and power, and is the same whoever is eating or being eaten. Julian’s father sums it up:

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