Old World Evil Entry Number 2: Hannibal (2001)

Lecter’s corruption extends to the audience, too. When some truly awful people (Mason Verger is a drug-addled billionaire and convicted pederast) come after him, Lecter defends himself: Pazzi tries to run some game and gets a gypsy boy and himself shanked, Verger tries to torture him to death and the result is probably the strangest thing Gary Oldman has ever had to do as an actor. And we find ourselves cheering for this predator of humans. After all, he has a moral code and he follows it, even protecting Starling when she is in danger. That is Verger’s fatal error – he thinks that Lecter is as corrupt and evil as he is, when in fact Verger is threatening one of the few people on earth Lecter cares about and respects.

Hannibal movie poster.jpg

For the record, I have never liked this poster. I get what they are doing: only part of his face is shown, the other side hidden in shadow, reminding us of his duality. One side of his personality is erudite, refined, the consummate gentleman, but we are not to be fooled – we must remember he is savage beneath the facade, as the red, demonic eye indicates. So I get that, but it just doesn’t work for me. I do like how it echoes Caravaggio’s use of light in his paintings, and he often depicted gruesome scenes in beautiful ways, so it has that going for it.

I knew who Hannibal Lecter was waaaaay before I ever saw Silence of the Lambs. He is as much an American cultural icon as Jason, John Wayne, or Tom Sawyer. I was about 12 when SOTL came out, which was a little young, so I didn’t see the film until I was 17 or so, and I was instantly fascinated.

Even though Lecter is a main character in SOTL, we spend very little time with him and never see him in his natural element. Every time he’s onscreen we’re riveted. We want more of this character. If you read Red Dragon and saw the film Manhunter, again your appetite was whetted for more.

So when the book Hannibal came out it caused quite a stir – finally, we would see Hannibal in his natural habitat! Free-roaming Lecter, at last! It promised to be the difference between seeing a tiger in the zoo and seeing one in the jungles of India: no walls, no rules.

The book definitely offered more than we had before – almost too much. The Hannibal parts were good, great even, but all the other stuff – Mason Verger and his bodybuilder sister who was omitted from the movie, the Italian crooked cop, the memory palace stuff, Krendler being a douche, and Starling’s fall from grace – there was just SO MUCH of it. It’s also entirely possible that SOTL as a book was good but not great, and the film turned it into something more memorable. I read the book about 20 years ago but can’t recall much of it- the movie has overridden it, I think.

But when we’re hanging out with Hannibal Lecter in his parts of the book, everything is awesome. 

Free-Range Hannibal
Hannibal-Lecter-in-Florence REALNESS

He hangs out in bistros sipping espresso from those little-bitty cups, demitasses. He wears amazing suits, hats, and sunglasses, and gloves all the time. The two latter are not just because he’s dressed to the nines – they allow him to hide his face from surveillance cameras and ensure he leaves no fingerprints behind. He creates individual bouquets of THE FANCIEST hand cream so he can write a letter to Starling on beautiful paper, sealed in red wax. The scent of the hand cream is intentional – it is a clue she can use in order to find him. He’s acting as the interim director of the Palazzo Vecchio, a museum/libarary in Florence, Italy under the name “Dr. Fell.” Even when he’s hanging out at home, his pajamas or whatever he’s wearing when Pazzi pays him a visit appear to be silk or maybe fine linen. During the scene he’s sipping red wine and treating the museum’s archives like a personal gift shop.

One of the movie’s many themes is corruption, and Hannibal’s corrupting effect on others. For example, an Italian cop in debt begins to suspect Hannibal. His wife has expensive tastes, and the huge reward that Mason Verger is offering for Lecter’s location and capture is too tempting for him to ignore, which leads to his demise. Starling too is corrupted, although she tries valiantly to warn the Italian authorities and Pazzi in particular about Lecter.  Verger was corrupted before he even wandered across Lecter’s path, but Verger himself acts as a corrupting influence on his own people: he has his private physician all tangled up in his evil schemes. (Ironically it’s Lecter who frees the man from the private hell he’s made for himself – given the choice between saving Verger and throwing him to the maneating pigs [long story], Lecter shouts ‘Hey Cordelle! Throw him in!  You can always say it was me!”).

Once Lecter realizes Verger is on to him, he decides he’s been away dallying in Italy too long, and heads stateside. He boosts walking shitbag Paul Krendler’s Amex and goes on a little shopping spree, and I am here to tell you that  if a ‘Hannibal Lecter’ cooking collection existed I would totally ruin my credit buying stuff from it. He purchases copper pots and pans , fancy dinnerware and flatware, flowers, and cooking tools, in addition to some Gucci shoes for Starling. Sur Le Table or Williams-Sonoma ought to get on that. Hell, even just an Amazon Wish List would be fascinating reading.

Thomas Harris and George R. R. Martin should start a catering business. Weirdest dinner party ever.

Lecter’s corruption extends to the audience, too. When some truly awful people (Mason Verger is a drug-addled billionaire and convicted pederast) come after him, Lecter defends himself:  Pazzi tries to run some game and gets a gypsy boy and himself shanked, Verger tries to torture him to death and the result is probably the strangest thing Gary Oldman has ever had to do as an actor. And we find ourselves cheering for this predator of humans. After all, he has a moral code and he follows it, even protecting Starling when she is in danger. That is Verger’s fatal error – he thinks that Lecter is as corrupt and evil as he is, when in fact Verger is threatening one of the few people on earth Lecter cares about and respects.

I am excited to watch the tv show with Mads Mikkaelson. I haven’t seen it yet, but all the fandom stuff I’ve seen has me curious to check it out. A friend said that the show has the same kind of cooking eyecandy that Hannibal the movie did, so I’m looking forward to it.

Hannibal the movie is available on Instant Watch. The show doesn’t seem to be, but I’ve heard it is available on Amazon Prime.

Bon Appetit!

Author: jennnanigans

Orlando-area writerly person.

2 thoughts on “Old World Evil Entry Number 2: Hannibal (2001)”

  1. I think you’ll really like the tv show when you get to it. It’s incredibly dark and atmospheric and wicked. I have to keep reminding myself never to watch it while eating.

    Also, they managed to get some “Dead Like Me” crossovers in it without ever compromising the tone of this show, which is a nifty trick.

    1. Nice! Ha ha, I will avoid eating while watching it then!
      I never watched Dead Like Me but I heard it was good.

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