Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hannibal on TV- Cannibal in the livingroom

Dr. Hannibal Lecter is back on screen, this time on small screen. As has been the wont of the genius cannibal doctor, he is the star of the show though, like always, most of the screen time is taken up by his pursuer the cop. In Hannibal, we are still at Red Dragon Lector where he was still social, though ,actively engaged in his anti social, anti-human activities of making homo-sapiens his lunch. In fact, Red Dragon and Silence of Lambs led to creation of an enduring villain who is a constant presence in background while centre stage is hogged by Will Graham in Red Dragon and Clarice Starling in the Silence.  However, this dark fascination with evil followed normal tendency of humanizing the evil and make him somewhat sympathize with dogged protagonists. Hannibal was made to care for Clarice a bit too much to retain the edge in his evil. Thomas Harris would have been better off just continuing to offer Lecter’s  genius and discomfort that he creates by his obvious superiority intertwined so effortlessly with his obvious evil.

 Great characters, whether suffering or inflicting sufferings, unravel when they start caring about other people. Brando’s character in Last Tango in Paris was fascinating in his silent suffering and keeping the focus on his delicious agony.Bernardo Bertolucci in a masterly way showed how he lost his lustre once he became a normal ‘sissy’ boyfriend. You touch your dreams and they will change colour. Harris in effect  killed the character with Hannibal (the third novel) and Hannibal Rising (The Last in series) effectively entombed the evil in the coffin of humanity.
This makes it interesting how the medium of TV, where episode system provides new possibilities through the use of time that allows build up much more thoroughly than two hour movie. On TV Hannibal is on to a great start as Hannibal is giving vent to his darker side.  Danish Actor Lars Mikkelsen is taking forward his poker strengths of Casino Royale. He is able to induce uncertainty in our feelings towards him.   Uneasiness that his predilections create in our mind are easily compounded by his unwavering ambiguous gaze that conveys, more than anything, a disturbing quality of menace. The director is able to dexterously harness the food and eating connections of cannibalism. Scenes of unexplained sharing of food (with Will Graham in first episode and with Jack Crowford  in second) with suspicious colour and texture add to this discomfort. Horror is more effective if it is repulsive in a more intimate way.

Apart from his culinary aspects Hannibal is also indulging in ‘breaking an interesting pony’.  He relishes in mind games with a worthy opponent. Will Graham is a suitable challenge for his capabilities. In films and novels, Dr Lecter pulled his strings more subtly and explanation of his influence and reasoning were less obvious. On TV this is being done more elaborately. His rich understanding of human beings is on display and his effortless mental dual with Graham is part of the charm. Dr Lecter attains full traction only in the company of opponent who are unique in their own way. Will Graham and Clarice Starling both were special and damaged. Here, will Graham’s episodes of ‘extreme empathy’ are the dramatic high points which are used as a tool to unravel the gruesome montage that serial killers are so good at.  Hugh Dancy is settling nicely in his role. He is burdened and suffering due to his gift. Dancy is portraying the vulnerability and determination with due felicity.

Build up is promising as the show is avoiding haste in catching audience. Similarly, character points for highlighting have been identified and established. Now events and psychological duals have to carry the show. Hope the audience gets its pay offs from this show with strong cast and great characters.

-Dhiraj Singh

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