John Drew

Hannibal

238 posts in this topic

You should write this all up,  Nathanael. It's good stuff.

Thanks! I may well do so, but it'll be a bit before I can do any non-prospectus writing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I mostly agree with this really interesting line of thought. I have a few caveats though, the first of which is that I think Will's homoerotic (if that is indeed a fair assessment of his attraction to Hannibal) may be an expression of the kind of appetite Hannibal exposes in people. It is a convenient expression because it is suitably transgressive and requires a consummation that resembles a sort of feasting and devouring. But I wonder how much of this can be ascribed to a fakery on Will's part, in that the genius of Will as a cop is that he is able to side with others and identify with others - to ultimately capture them. This nascent homoeroticism is Will's criminological method in this case (though Fuller's description of the fourth season, which sounds pretty bad [glad we dodged that bullet], probably contradicts me here).

The show's entire theodicy is captivating, and I like the direction you are headed here. Need to consider that a bit more. I agree for sure that the benchmark of  Harris/Hannibal/Fuller storytelling is a denial of the easy dualisms that mark other fiction in the genre. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Fakery" is, I think, perhaps an imprecise word for what Will does. His attraction to Hannibal is the result of his criminological method, but I'd argue that most attractions of any sort are the result of pre-existing inclinations anyway. Will's an empatic person and he can't help but empathize even with Hannibal. Actually, that's not even so precise, because (as Bedelia reminds us) cruelty and empathy are not mutually exclusive. This gets back to the Cosmic dimension here; Will, as the Lamb, empathizes with people in order to (hopefully) ease their pain in some manner. He's not doing it for that reason, necessarily; it's simply his nature or his fate to use his gifts in that way. And the result is always that he actually takes on the suffering of others, including serial killers--including, ultimately, Hannibal. Meanwhile, Hannibal--as the "true" Dragon (per Jack) or as the tyger to Will's lamb--empathizes to destroy. The two men are, then, mirror-images of each other and in some sense fated to meet and become locked in an endless struggle (there may even be a Taoist element here, though I know little enough of Taoism, in that the light and the dark mingle in dynamic harmony. And, come to think of it,

Will finally takes Hannibal out by doing nothing, which is part of the Taoist principle of action.)

Short version: My reading is Will does become entangled in Hannibal because of his criminological method--indeed, that's the grounds 

of the attraction--but I don't think that means he's faking it. Will's problem is precisely that he can't fake it--he has to become it (and, again, I think this takes us back to the idea of resistance-versus-embrace).

EDIT: On a totally different note, I've just been going through the Blake Archive and I'm convinced--and this has probably been mentioned before, but--convinced that the color scheme and lighting for this season is at least influenced by Blake. Check this out, for instance. Which is a neat little connection, if it's true.

Edited by NBooth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The two men are, then, mirror-images of each other and in some sense fated to meet and become locked in an endless struggle ....

.

 

Hat tip to Peter for posting this video the other day on Facebook.  I think this video, "Recovering the Mindset", kind of plays into what NBooth says here.  I found this to be a remarkable edit...

As I replied on Facebook... Three things that this piece does... 1. Reaffirms my love for Michael Mann's version. 2. Really kicks into gear the realization that I NEED to watch Hannibal, and watch it soon. 3. Perhaps most amazing, it makes me want to seek out a Brett Ratner film for a second viewing (something I never thought I'd consider).

Edited by John Drew

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes to 2. Very much so. I watched a couple of clips of the Ratner film (after having seen it a couple of years back) and came away less than impressed. Still, I'd be interested in giving it another view.

That video reminds me--it's not really that striking to say that Will and Hannibal mirror each other--beyond the fact that such a move is common in the genre--because in the show they literally mirror each other in the glass--shots of Will with Hannibal superimposed on his face and vice-versa. The mirroring occurs on the level of shot-construction as well as narrative.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Fakery" is the wrong word. But this is slippery stuff. I still read Will as the detective who has to get so close to his prey that he begins to look like them - even love them. This is one of the key features of noir, right? That the detective begins to doubt the rationality of their own moral and sexual convictions. They realize that there is indeed something right about the nihilism of the crook. But ultimately, they also realize that this unexpected sympathy doesn't matter because the cop is supposed to catch the crook. It just can't end any other way.

Hannibal frames everything he does in an apocalyptic manner. He is revealing, uncovering something about existence - and this mythos is deeply responsible for his allure. One of Crawford's principle aims throughout the series is to prevent this Hannibal metanarrative from overtaking those who are getting close to him - especially Will. But Will is such an adept interpreter of Hannibal's narrative, for which the Red Dragon murders serve as a kind of parable, because he enters into its symbology. [In fact, structurally, the Red Dragon cycle is really just present in Hannibal to serve as the mechanism that forces Hannibal to come to grips with Will. Or the other way around...] 

Hannibal has never known anyone like Will, who has become part of the apocalyptic dualism he aspires to. In fact, he requires Will - and this recognition of mutual need becomes expressed in sexual terms. This is all pretty genius storytelling on Hannibal's part.

But, I still read this all as a basic cop and robbers story. Will descends into Hannibal's symbolic world to play a role, while fully knowing the real telos of his work here is ultimately to bring that world to an end by busting Hannibal.

I am musing through this as I write, really. I feel as if this show requires some kind of debrief period. To that end, I will toss out the idea that we turn this convo into a roundtable publishable at Medium or something along those lines. Too much good stuff in this thread to go unshared.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would be up for that. 

I don't think I disagree with you; the emotional stuff at play doesn't over-ride Will's ultimate goal, though it does muddy it (I can hardly imagine that his plans in the last episode arise from a pure concern for justice). What interests me is the way in which Will finally achieves his goal and the way that achievement blurs the line between cops-and-robbers and Cosmic Parable. 

More later, perhaps.

Edited by NBooth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Looks like I'm presenting a paper on Hannibal at the Far West Pop Culture Association Conference in Las Vegas next year. The title is "Love Your Enemies: The Homoerotic Metaphysics of Bryan Fuller's Hannibal." Obviously, it's going to be a development on some of the thoughts I've posted here.

Edited by NBooth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The irrepressible Philip Sandifer is tackling Hannibal. Here's the first post.

Within the slipperiness of exactly what Will does, the show’s oscillation between framing it as empathy and imagination is the most interesting. On the surface these are two very different things: empathy is perceptual, imagination creative. The division is readily healed by consulting William Blake on the subject of imagination. For Blake, imagination is a faculty to be added to perception. Indeed, it is the fact of man’s imagination that creates abstraction and order over the dead-eyed, vegetative world of nature. Imagination is thus more real than mere perception - a higher order of the cosmos.

Within the context of Hannibal, this distinction adds an unsettling light to what Will does. If the empathy that he brings to crime scenes is an act of imagination then the resulting sense of design must belong to Will, not the killers themselves. Will creates a higher structure out of the tortured meat before him, and this structure proves more real and more powerful than the killing on its own. On a basic level this can be read as a crude and obvious comment about the relationship between art and audiences, but it has many other implications that are both more interesting and more disturbing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Just wrote a piece on Amelie during which I mused on a connection between empathy and perception/imagination. So this is timely and confirmatory.

" If the empathy that he brings to crime scenes is an act of imagination then the resulting sense of design must belong to Will, not the killers themselves..."

Well, maybe. I thought the subtext here is that a killer wants to communicate and can't help but leave traces of that language on the crime scene. Will is empathetic specifically toward that desire to communicate, to make meaning out of things, and thus can sense clues about the identity of the killers other investigators simply can't see. But the whole genius of Harris framing of Will's character is that while he understands why these killers operate, at a deep level of id an aesthetic, he is still driven by a moral compass. 

This is very much present in the show. What distinguishes Will is not just this investigative empathy, but he is also in one specific capacity smarter than Lecter. He has a moral intelligence, and is thus more aligned with the grain of how things actually work than Lecter (even though Lecter's whole business is being basically a reverse Christus Victor embodiment of natural entropy - a flawed and inherently doomed self-perception even if it is mannered and well-studied). So Will will always win, it is just a matter of his more moral sense of nature actually running its course. 

This brings us full circle to the eschatology of Hannibal. All the Blake stuff coats serial murder in a vibe of teleology. All this killing is symbolic of some great destruction to come, and it is also kind of inviting that destruction to come (similar to how some evangelicals presume that rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem will hasten the return of Christ). But there is a natural theology to Will's investigative approach which presumes the opposite. Given time and moral energy applied the same direction, murder will come to an end. The lambs scream out while they are slaughtered, but someday the slaughter will come to an end.

Without this layer of eschatology, the whole subtext collapses into mere noir. The show excels, however, at ensuring the Will/Lecter combat occurs at the level of this conflict between nihilism and a hope in the natural order of things.

Edited by M. Leary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very interesting. The emphasis on the desire to communicate is confirmed, I think, in the touchstone phrase "You see? You see?"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good catch. Yes, my disagreement with the link is this idea that the sense of communication/order belongs to Will and not the killer.

Really, the contribution of Harris to the crime genre is taking the material Locard Exchange Principle and making it psychological. Which is a pretty awesome concept.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now