Thomas Harris introduced the world to Hannibal Lecter in 1981 with the book Red Dragon. In 1991 the movie version of The Silence of the Lambs swept the Oscars and won Harris and Anthony Hopkins a lot of critical acclaim. This was the second book about Hannibal which Harris wrote. Two more have been written about this polarizing character, subsequent movies made, more actors cast in the (in)famous role. After The Silence of the Lambs, though, nothing else was good, or right, or true to the characters. In 2001 Ridley Scott decided to make Hannibal into a movie. It was during the end credits of this film that I swore I would never again watch another adaptation. I was furious. The movie was a discredit to the book, and I feel that Hannibal himself would have eaten anyone and everyone who was involved with the making of this movie.
The books are mind-altering, to say the very least. I believe I was 15 when I first read Red Dragon. This was several years after The Silence of the Lambs had been a success. I initially picked up the book because I knew about the movie. I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into, though. Red Dragon is the first time I was introduced to an FBI Profiler. Will Graham is not just any Profiler; he can get inside the minds of serial killers and understand them. He can see the crime as it happened, in all of its brutally graphic glory. Psychology has always been an interest of mine, so reading Red Dragon was easy enough. It was the way Harris burned the images into your head, though, that made me appreciate the story. If you haven’t read the books, I would suggest reading them immediately. There are 4 total books involving Hannibal Lecter, and I warn you now, they will get inside of you.
In 2013, NBC released Hannibal, and I ignored it intentionally. I had so many reasons aside from the Ridley Scott mistake, mostly those reasons centered on the very adult nature of the books. At times the books border on the obscene. Nothing is done superfluously, though. Harris has a reason for every scene he gives; he wants you to crawl around inside the mind and relationship of two of the most psychologically significant characters ever written. How could basic network television properly get into a series based on the books? How could we dive into the mind of not only Hannibal, but also Will Graham? How would the network censor the work, (surely they would have to) and how would that hinder the story? I was certain it would last a season and then vanish. I was surprised by the acclaim the show began to garner. People who had actually read the books were now complimenting the series. I decided to give it through Season 2, if after that season there was still buzz, I would give it a try.
I began watching Hannibal at the end of May. It’s mid-June and I’m completely caught up with the series and anxiously awaiting the next episode to air (Thursday evening – 2 more days). To say I was pleasantly surprised by the series would be a colossal understatement. I give most of the credit to Bryan Fuller. I didn’t realize he was the person behind the series, if I had, I may have watched sooner. I have to also give major credit to the actors themselves. Hugh Dancy performs as Will Graham. This is no small feat as Will is severely crippled by his imagination and ability to get inside the mind of any psychopath. Dancy plays Graham perfectly. Mads Mikkelsen is Hannibal. To say that he is perfection would be an understatement. Mads plays Hannibal so well that I am sure, if ever I ran into him, I would be as polite as possible and make little eye contact. Probably I wouldn’t speak, either. Speaking around Hannibal is just not a good idea. Laurence Fishburne plays Jack Crawford. Fishburne can do just about anything, so to say he does this well is no big deal. Then, to put the cherry right on top of this series, Gillian Anderson shows up and plays Bedelia Du Maurier, Hannibal’s psychotherapist.
The story is based on Red Dragon, but loosely. Considering the events of this book occurred in 1978, Fuller chose to modernize the story. Harris wrote such an incredibly complex story, but the story itself lies in the psychology of the characters. This made it much easier to modernize and change around without harming the integrity of the books. Every piece of this show is pure artistry. It’s rife with symbolism, psychological understanding (and misunderstanding), relationships, power struggles, and beautiful death. You even begin to wonder if you aren’t a bit crazy yourself. This is what is so important about the books: We get inside the minds of the characters in very intimate ways, and sometime during reading, you realize Harris has gotten into your mind.
This post is my apology to Bryan Fuller; Had I known he was the one behind the series I would have been less inclined to put it off. Now that I am watching weekly, I hope it never ends. This post is the first of many posts about Hannibal. If you haven’t read the books, you should. If you haven’t seen the show, you should. Trust me.