Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Hannibal (2001)

"You can look at my face, but you shied when I said the name of God."

It's an interesting prospect; get Ridley Scott to direct the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs. The result is a very different style of film (co-scripted by David Mamet, no less) which, while not equalling it's predecessor, is nevertheless an excellent film. The same health warning applies here as applied before, however; I haven't read the original Thomas Harris novel.

This sequel further develops the ghoulishly fascinating relationship between Hannibal Lecter and a recast Clarice Starling, portrayed by Julianne Moore as a much tougher and less nuanced figure. She is again alone in a man's world which belittles her on grounds of both class and gender, put on to the Lecter case by an all-male disciplinary committee. 

The third lead character here is the wealthy, disfigured and thoroughly disturbed Mason Verger, whose face was peeled off and fed to dogs by the delightful Mr Lecter. It's immediately obvious that he wants revenge but Lecter is safe, for the moment, posing as an academic in Italy whom is not, for the moment, suspected of anything by his police inspector friend. This soon changes, however, and the inspector's growing suspicions are an early source of tension in a section of the film that, while entertaining, takes up a surprisingly high percentage of the film. It's structurally odd, but somehow it works.

Eventually we get to an equally gripping game of cat and mouse between Clarice and Lecter, in an inevitable prelude to their showdown with Verger. It is interesting that this third act, like The Silence of the Lambs, does not feature Lecter as the main antagonist; this is not the most interesting use for the character. Clarice, as usual, must battle against both male authority and male violence with her only supporter a violent, canniballistic psychopath. Creepily, he's only nice to her because she's polite and her distress excites him.

It's a slow-paced film that goes quickly and ends suddenly when it seems there's much more to come, and there's a particularly gruesome brain-eating scene towards the end. This film is very oddly structured but is also that rate phenomenon of a worthy sequel.

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