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Peter T Chattaway

Hannibal Rising

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Link to the thread on the book, which apparently came out two months ago.

I gather from Wikipedia that some of the material in this film was already spelled out in the book version of Hannibal, but I don't remember any of this material coming up in Ridley Scott's film version (which is fair enough; all the flashback stuff in The Godfather Part II was spelled out in Mario Puzo's The Godfather, but never came up in the original film). BTW, I love how Wikipedia notes the places where the novel contradicts statements made about Hannibal Lecter's past in the earlier books.

I am curious to see what SDG, in particular, makes of this film, since it seems to "explain" how Hannibal Lecter became evil, and SDG in particular has ... well, if I may quote certain bits of his/your review of Silence of the Lambs:

Lecter fascinates us because he embodies qualities that we associate with civilized, reasonable existence, yet he is murderously sociopathic. In our therapeutic age, he's a shocking reminder that, beyond all psychobabble about "behavior modification" and the like, there remains the sheer reality of good and evil. The doctor is in: God help us all. . . .

Of course, while Bill is far from glamorized, Lecter himself is another matter. Yet, because we are always looking at him through Clarice's eyes -- never looking at the world through Lecter's eyes -- the basic moral orientation of the film remains intact. Lecter is a movie villain akin to Dracula; he's undeniably fascinating, but never for an instant are we invited or tempted to adopt his value system. . . .

So ... given that Lecter is now, for the first time ever, indisputably THE main character in the story ... does THIS film encourage us to see the world through Lecter's eyes? What is the basic moral orientation of THIS film? By "explaining" the origins of his evil, does the film "excuse" it somehow? Or does the film "comment" on Lecter's evil -- either via directorial decisions like camera placement and editing and music, or via statements made by supporting characters -- in such a way that it stays grounded in the proper moral orientation? Is Lecter more effective if we don't know WHY he does what he does? Etc., etc., etc.

No comments on the movie itself until opening day, of course. But one comment I can make, since it's based on a fact of casting that is already open knowledge, is that Gong Li is once again playing a Japanese woman (see Memoirs of a Geisha for the much more controversial precedent). But when the main bad guys are Lithuanians played by Scotsmen and Welshmen, etc., I guess it's no big deal.

(BTW, re: the Japanese elements,

that "mask" we see Hannibal wearing in the poster is from a samurai uniform -- which is an interesting way to foreshadow that iconic image of Anthony Hopkins from

Silence of the Lambs, but at the same time, I dunno, it seems a little too Batman Begins for me. Speaking of which, one of the film's Welsh-actors-playing-Lithuanian-bad-guys is the guy who played Joe Chill in Batman Begins. So he's responsible for BOTH the origin of Batman AND the origin of Hannibal Lecter

!)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Peter, thanks for that nice opening post. I had totally dismissed the film based on the first poster I saw. I must admit, you've made me at least consider it.

-s.


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Man of devour

At press time, I hadn't seen the movie yet - it opens Friday - but in reading the recently published book, it seems clear to me that between creating Lecter and writing his two post-"Lambs" Lecter books, Harris himself fell in love with Hopkins' interpretation of him. In those books, and in the last two Hopkins/Lecter movies, the evil monster has become the protagonist, a wronged man seeking justice in understandably - well, nearly - twisted ways. He is especially the hero of "Hannibal Rising," because Harris has made him the victim of the greatest evil in history - the Nazi menace. Harris' novel has taken a pounding from critics, but I enjoyed its speculative pseudo-psychology and Hannibal's brash, inventive brand of torturing Nazi symps. However, I doubt that many people who remember "Lambs" fondly will embrace the movie made from "Rising."

Jack Mathewes, New York Daily News, February 4


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I am curious to see what SDG, in particular, makes of this film, since it seems to "explain" how Hannibal Lecter became evil, and SDG in particular has ... well, if I may quote certain bits of his/your review of Silence of the Lambs:

Lecter fascinates us because he embodies qualities that we associate with civilized, reasonable existence, yet he is murderously sociopathic. In our therapeutic age, he's a shocking reminder that, beyond all psychobabble about "behavior modification" and the like, there remains the sheer reality of good and evil. The doctor is in: God help us all. . . .

I have always read the books with something along the lines of SDG's quote in mind. And to piggyback on that, I have always been impressed that Hopkins only had 16 minutes of screen time in Silence of the Lambs. In retrospect he seems to dominate the film completely, and this is a great analogy for the leavening effect of evil. The incredible Hannibal Lecter sort of evil is only enacted in the world in tiny amounts, even though it seems to dominate our experience. This may be why Manhunter is the best of the Lecter films. Not only does it have very fleeting glimpses of Lecter, but like the book it makes the story more about Will (aptly named) and the way he is affected by all this gratuitous violence.

All that being said, the premise of Hannibal Rising seems to contradict the genius of Harris' original storytelling. Bummer.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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In principle, of course, it's possible that Hannibal might work one way as a character in The Silence of the Lambs and another way in another story. Assuming I was onto something with my observations about Lecter's fascination in The Silence of the Lambs (and I rather think I was), that doesn't preclude the possibility of telling a worthwhile story that does something else with the character.

But like Leary I'm doubtful about the actual result in practice. For me at least the movie version of Hannibal (I didn't read the book) already compromised the essence of the character in more ways than one, as well as subverting what was interesting in his relationship with Clarisse Starling and what made her work as a character. (I've heard that the book version subverts the Starling character even more than the film.)

I've always appreciated what Lecter says about himself in the book version of The Silence of the Lambs (a line criminally absent from the film):

"Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling.
I
happened. You can't reduce me to a set of influences. You've given up good and evil for behaviorism, Officer Starling. You've got everybody in moral dignity pants -- nothing is ever anybody's fault. Look at me, Officer Starling. Can't you stand to say I'm evil? Am I evil, Officer Starling?"

Unsurprisingly, Googling parts of that speech turn up various observations to the effect that, in fact, "reducing [Lecter] to a set of influences" may well be precisely what the new story does.

I don't want to overstate the point. Lecter's little speech is obviously intended to create a certain effect, both by Lecter for Clarisse and by Harris for the reader, and whatever he may say certainly there were influences that at least helped Lecter become what he did. It's just that they're irrelevant to the story told in Silence of the Lambs.

I don't mind if Harris now wants to tell a story in which they aren't irrelevant. But I would hate to have him completely undo the force of Lecter's speech, effectively putting Lecter in moral dignity pants, or giving up good and evil for, well, anything at all.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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He is especially the hero of "Hannibal Rising," because Harris has made him the victim of the greatest evil in history - the Nazi menace.

Nooooooooooo!!!!

Isn't that just what we do now, to avoid grappling with the reality of evil?

We do it with Al Qaeda: "Well... we created them, so really, shouldn't we just feel sorry for them instead of outraged at what they do?"

Celebrities exploit this all the time. "Well, I behave this way because I was abused as a child."

And politicians: "Well, I made a pass at my page because a priest molested me."

Anything to deflect the blame. Anything to sidestep our shame. "Well, the woman you created tempted me." "What? Me? It was the serpent."

We can all feel a little better about ourselves if Hannibal Lecter is really just a victim.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

 

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Mark Steyn has re-posted his reviews of Hannibal and Red Dragon, and I can't say I disagree with anything he says.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Here's an interesting thing: In Seattle, the press were invited to an advance evening screening -- but there was no audience! A rare occurrence indeed. I'm used to the press being uninvited to screenings; but the promo audience? Rare indeed.

This is the only film I can recall where I actually put my face in my hands and shook my head -- not because it was horrific, but because it was just horrible.

Jenn's review is up -- and if you want to read something truly scathing (a rarity at PTP), here it is.


Greg Wright

Managing Editor, Past the Popcorn

Consulting Editor, Hollywood Jesus

Leader of the Uruk-Howdy, Orcs of the West

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Greg Wright wrote:

: Here's an interesting thing: In Seattle, the press were invited to an advance

: evening screening -- but there was no audience! A rare occurrence indeed.

: I'm used to the press being uninvited to screenings; but the promo

: audience? Rare indeed.

FWIW, my only experience like that so far has been the evening press (not promo, press) screening for The Da Vinci Code.

: This is the only film I can recall where I actually put my face in my hands

: and shook my head -- not because it was horrific, but because it was just

: horrible.

Heh. I caught this one at a morning screening a week ago, and some of my colleagues (and possibly I myself) were laughing at various points.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Spoilers throughout, though really--who cares?

 

Since I blazed through the tv version, I decided to check out some other iterations of the Lecter mythos. Last night it was Hannibal Rising. It was bad. Not just bad, but remarkably bad in its stubborn refusal to do a single thing right. I tweeted as much. And then, this morning, I got a notification that the tweet had been favorited--by Peter Webber, the director! Whatever the merits of his film, the man's a class act.

 

But this movie.... Ok, so let's grant that it's a Hannibal story in a different mode from the others; it's generically different, a dark revenge western [as Webber suggests in his audio commentary]. Let's even grant the need to make young Lecter an unsettlingly sexy Lithuanian Frenchman. I mean, there's nothing in any previous portrayal to suggest Lecter was anything of the sort, but let's grant it. Still, 

 

1. Why is the opening half-hour such a floppy mess of disjointed storylines [follow the Nazis, follow the Lecters, etc]

 

2. Why does the movie take such pains to show us a wounded young Hannibal if he's going to wind up being psychotic pretty much as soon as he opens his mouth?

 

3. Why feature the cop when nothing he does has any bearing on the story whatsoever?

 

4. Why bring in the Japanese stuff? I mean. in one sense it's called for--it's part of the expansion of Hannibal into a truly cosmopolitan character [he's been American and European--why not Japanese?]--but the content carries with it more than whiff of Orientalism, with Hannibal taking his inspiration from the Samurai, etc etc etc. The fact that Gong Li, a Chinese actress, is playing a Japanese character wouldn't normally get on my nerves too badly [i mean, we have a Frenchman playing a Lithuanian]--but in the shadow of Orientalism the fact becomes more troubling.

 

5. Why focus on Hannibal's early crimes if [a] they're hardly going to be shown, and they carry with them no tension, menace, unsettling moral questions, etc? I don't usually say that a movie needs more [or less] gore, but this movie absolutely needed to be an over-the-top splatterfest. What we see is almost demure compared to even Silence of the Lambs, let alone the tv version of Hannibal etc.

 

Still and all, I do get a kick out of Hannibal's pathology being connected to the Nazis. If, as Leonard Cassuto argues, the arc of the Hannibal series is toward Lecter becoming a sentimental hero [see also Beneath the American Renaissance for more on dark sentimentality], Hannibal Rising completes it by making Hannibal a tragic orphan in the Oliver Twist mode. And, as Hannibal morphs in popular consciousness from a creepy guy in those couple of scenes to the Embodiment of Evil [and, in the tv show, possibly into Satan himself], it's fitting that his origins become entwined with the Great Obvious Evil of the Twentieth Century [and so he becomes typical, in a way, of the psychopathology of the mid- to late-twentieth century; Hannibal Lecter c'est moi]. 

 

Of course, this version of Hannibal doesn't tally with the other filmic incarnations of Hannibal. Though Ulliel obviously studied Hopkins' mannerisms for his own portrayal [and sometimes is very good indeed at such mimicry, which is more of a problem than otherwise since these scenes cut directly against the image of Hannibal as a wounded soul], his Hannibal isn't a dandified psychopath with a taste for human flesh. Indeed, the cannibalism seems almost like an afterthought, as if it was shoehorned in simply because that's the sort of thing Hannibal does and this is a Hannibal movie so Hannibal must do it. But his motives are wholly different; though he refers once to "discourtesy," he's really after justice. He eats the criminals to punish them for eating his sister. Even the revelation that he also partook of the broth does nothing--it falls as flat as every other revelation in this particularly flat movie [in contrast, the one line of dialogue in the tv show referencing Mischa carries more emotional weight that this entire film]. And there's not even really an attempt to tie the two visions of Hannibal together; even the closing shot, with its sideways reference to Silence of the Lambs, fails to convince that Ulliel is playing the same character as Hopkins or Cox. Hannibal here becomes the dark conscience of the twentieth century, the evil angel who was both born of and avenges the crimes that would otherwise go unpunished. He's the Punisher with a better taste in wine.

 

I enjoyed this movie, in the same way I enjoyed The Raven, as a remarkable study in how to start with a bad beginning and triumphantly demonstrate that there is no bottom to how bad the film can get. And there's some interesting stuff hiding away in the background. But, man--this movie is awful, awful, awful.

Edited by NBooth

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