Text by – DAVIDE PARLATO
Translation by – NICOLE SYLVIA BOURIS
Hannibal Lecter is one of those movie characters that have left their mark and continue doing so. Originally, the story, was born in Thomas Harris’ great mind and had its first debut among the “mythological monsters” of our imagination with “The Silence of the Lambs” perfectly impersonated by Sir Anthony Hopkins (the actor that interpreted the role so magnificently that he has never been able to fully withdraw from it). After the abovementioned film, two others followed, taken from two stories by Harris (“Hannibal” by Scott and “Red Dragon” by Fincher) and an unpleasant prequel, which I will not hereby quote. Let’s say that we have plenty of movies and productions on the most famous cannibal of our imagination – but we know that some monsters really don’t want to die.
In this prospective we fully understand Bryan Fuller’s initiative of reactivating Hannibal’s criminal mind: this time though, on the small screen (which seems to have become the most fruitful option not only in terms of audience but also in terms of potential impact on the public). Sincerely, the idea of a TV show on Hannibal leaves me with a lot of perplexities, the directors’ and producers’ lack of creativity just disappoints me, as if they needed a little thematic help to get back on track with modern topics. Anyway, I convinced myself to start the series. I finished the two seasons (the only ones), of thirteen episodes each, in only three days, putting aside every type of human related task. This represented not only a sign of my person’s deterioration but also, and mostly, a sign of deep appreciation.
The negative opinion concerning the predicted topic stays: we’re always talking about Hannibal’s adventures here. But I have to admit that Fuller, helped by the evolutionary essence of the show, has depicted a quite unexpected character under many points of view.
The show is greatly inspired by “Red Dragon” by Harris, but has little to do with it other than its main characters. The whole plot revolves around two figures: Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter. The first is an FBI assistant, a kind of special consultant for crime scenes: with an uncommon empathic power, he is able to put himself in the assassin’s shoes and to understand the procedure of the homicide in every single detail. This thing is not actually very good for Graham’s already unstable mental status because it happens to be a sort of hypnotic trance. Hannibal Lecter is Hannibal Lecter, but here before he was recognized to be a serial killer: he is called as a psychiatrist consultant of the FBI agent, he actively collaborates with Graham and growing with the latter a strange and morbose relationship. The show evolves exactly on their relationship, crime scene after crime scene, in a tremendous and intense psychological vortex.
This is realized through two different disturbing phenomena: from one side Graham continuously tends to mental instability, giving the spectator facts, which are filtered by his paradoxical hallucinations and visions. From the other side Hannibal: we know he’s Hannibal Lecter but the spectator could freely think he’s not. Fuller’s strategy resembles Hitchcock’s evident tension: you know something is going to happen because danger is palpable, but everything that happens brings you to an instable perception of reality, it is a constant strain between the premise and the evidences given by the (il)logical sequence of events. Want an example? Hannibal is an excellent cook and the show has many scenes involving recipes and their preparation. All of them have meat as main ingredient. What kind of meat? The spectator is induced to think that the pork loin does not come from an actual pig, but the sequence of the scenes do nothing but suggest this possibility: what to think is just left to the spectator.
The producer and the inventor of the show, through some type of contradictory procedure but fully successful, has written an original story about a known character, arriving to a deep innovation of Hannibal’s character and to the creation of a very nerve-racking plot. Hannibal Lecter results a more complex persona compared to the one interpreted by Hopkins.
Taking into consideration the plot and the characters, Fuller’s work is perfect: the fact that the plot is complex and destabilizing, made of well-build characters already represents a point in favor against eventual critiques. Acting does not deserve a particular applause (differently from other tv shows such as Braking Bad and Fargo) but it results fully satisfactory considering the storyline goals: Hugh Dancy, impersonating Graham, puts on stage an amazing psychological evolution in a very sentimental way, Mads Mlkkelsen, instead, interprets Hannibal by understanding precisely the director’s aim in character innovation.
A very particular appreciation goes to the “sensorial” section of the production.
“When I sat down to the script, I was very consciously saying, ‘What would David Lynch do with a Hannibal Lecter character? What sort of strange, unexpected places would he take this world?’ I’m a great admirer of his work and his aesthetic and his meticulous sound design. Those were all components that I felt very strongly needed to be part of our Hannibal Lecter story. Between Lynch and Kubrick, there’s a lot of inspiration.” (Bryan Fuller)
This objective was entirely accomplished: Hannibal is a horror tunnel, a stroboscopic, psychedelic, hypnotic and irrational experience accompanied by paradoxical and illogical images and by an incredibly overwhelming sound sector syncopated and agonizing. Each episode reflects the amount of research on aesthetics and you will be amazed by the terrestrial trip into a dark labyrinth, metaphorically, portraying Graham’s mind (and mind in general). A completely renovated terror dimension, which does not underline tension itself (just look at the various ESP and similar) rather it emphasizes the perfect liaison among the arriving destabilization of the plot and the restless and jaded hammering of the sensorial sector (photography and sound).
Concluding, Hannibal is not only a perfect rejuvenation of a classic but it is also an excellent production for the small screen and, in my opinion, one of the best horror productions in recent years. Fuller’s horror is an intimate, visceral, primarily mental horror, that in some way resurges from the present cinematographic environment and rebuilds a connection with the visionary essence of the product.
All in all: it’s scary.