Only the subject matter makes it intolerable.
When David Mamet and director Ridley Scott wade into the macabre, the result is both impossible to watch and impossible not to. Hannibal is a good movie in most of the ways that usually count-acting, direction, story, suspense, photography, lighting, and breathtaking locations. Only the subject matter makes it intolerable. If the mark of the horror genre is the deliberate attempt to shock, if torture, mutilation, and cannibalism are the measure of success, then let's look at Hannibal in two ways, one for horror lovers and one for the rest of us.
Seven years after escaping the FBI, Hannibal Lecter is living in Florence as Dr. Fell, Renaissance scholar. When his early antagonist, FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore), makes the nightly news because of an FBI operation gone wrong, Hannibal's interest is rekindled. He will find both Clarice and his old enemy, Mason Verger, an odious creep well created by Gary Oldman. The cat and mouse among these three is terrific.
No one in this world, you see, draws Hannibal out except for those who truly interest him, and most of the ones who catch his interest end up as his dinner. He dines with delicacy on body parts and good wine at a table set with inspiration in a beautiful room--that is, when he isn't lunging lustfully at the face of a passerby, or a jail nurse, or a perceived enemy. Hannibal is driven not by something as simple as murder, but by an intense pleasure in seeing other people suffer. His dominant drive is to prolong his victims' deaths for as long as possible. And director Scott never takes his camera's eye off the details of dismemberment.
If you're not given to this kind of thing, the music gives you plenty of warning to close your eyes. While staring at your dark eyelids, you can ask why such a compelling thriller needs cannibalism to propel it. Ah, but this is the sequel to the hugely successful The Silence of the Lambs.
With amazing physical and mental agility, Mr. Hopkins brings an unearthly elegance to the twisted Hannibal. It is wonderfully indescribable watching this marvelous actor play with words and toy with people while his nimble mind prepares his next strike. He makes this monster an astonishingly plausible figment of our imaginations. Therein lies the problem.
The Silence of the Lambs dealt less with graphic cannibalism than with what it prompted the imagination to conjure. Mystery generates suspense. In the ten years that have passed since the making of the earlier film, visual assaults have become commonplace, mystery has vanished.
Suggest something to me, let my imagination run. I don't want to watch movies with my eyes shut. Would it be less riveting to watch Anthony Hopkins dance his way through this fine thriller, plotting vengeance and betrayal, if we didn't have to watch him dine on brains? I don't think so.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 497
Studio : MGM
Rating : R
Running time : 2h11m
Copyright (c) Illusion
Return to Ellis Home Page