Ever since I saw Jonathan Demme's "Silence Of The Lambs" (on TV, mind you,
lending a whole new dimension to the phrase "glued to the television set") -
wide-eyed, dry-mouthed and startled out of my wits, and my respect for movie-making
rapidly taking giant leaps - I've wanted, oh so badly, to watch its sequel.
Hollywood being far away from Hyderabad the sequel took its time to reach us,
and this week I finally had my prayers answered. And how.
What a sequel Hannibal is - gloomy, dull, unintelligent and unforgivably boring.
Someone should go right ahead and sue Ridley Scott, charging him with killing
expectations and eating them for dinner. Neither the presence of Anthony Hopkins
(as Hannibal the Cannibal, in case you are unenlightened), nor his grossly (in)human
eating habits (pun! that's a pun!) could add any flavor (this gets better and
better!) to the tasteless grub that Scott has dished out for his hungry audience.
I believe this happened mainly since Hannibal lacks the right ingredients to
make a good cannibal movie.
Take Julianne Moore, for one. The poor thing tries, but fails to fool you into
believing that she could be the older version of the incredibly strong and painfully
vulnerable Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster in Silence Of The Lambs.
But Moore is the least of your worries as the movie first threatens and then
goes on to fulfill its threat of becoming a cheap, cheesy horror-flick. Substantial
blame can be rested on the slack, powerless and unbelievably ordinary script.
And the dialogues.
For the benefit of those who haven't been fortunate enough to watch the Silence
Of The Lambs, and for that of those fortunate enough not to have watched Hannibal,
here's the story of the prequel. Clarice Starling, an FBI trainee, sort of befriends
prisoner Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a man-eating psycho psychiatrist who helps her
out in a horrible "Buffalo Bull" case in return for a "view" of the outside
world. Hannibal then escapes.
10 years later, in Hannibal the movie, Clarice is back on the case. Also on
the lookout for Lecter is Mason Verger, a horribly disfigured rich old man,
Hannibal's only surviving victim who has sworn revenge. When Clarice gets disgraced
by the force for "doing her job" well (an incident which leads her to be assigned
to the Hannibal case), Hannibal writes to her to express his hope that they
both might enjoy themselves.
Meanwhile, Inspector Renaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) in Florence, Italy,
chances upon the true identity of Doctor Bell (the great Hannibal himself) and
pays dearly for it. The story then escalates into some more obscure nonsense,
with wild hungry boars trained to eat men and fried brains (yuck!) for special
effects. The result is not a happy one, especially since the end looks suspiciously
like the beginning of another meaningless sequel.
Ridley Scott just couldn't leave well enough. In Hannibal, darkness and gloom
try and fail to replace the sense of horror and disbelief you felt while watching
its prequel. Simple, rather nonsensical dialogues replace those complex, thrilling
and sometimes chilling exchanges between Lecter and Clarice. Cheap horror filmmaking
replaces intense, clear-headed art. The abnormally intelligent, suave and sophisticated
Hannibal Lecter is made out to be just another stupid, contemptible villain,
and Clarice loses her strength as well as her vulnerability. If I were less
angry, I might have said tut, tut, but this calls for a greater reprimand.
The performances are the saving grace, though there isn't much the actors can
do to improve things. The make-up artists deserve mention, though, and so do
the few scenes that make you go "yuck". As that's what they are intended for,
I suppose they deserve some credit. The only other good thing about Hannibal
is that it reminds you of Silence Of The Lambs (by playing dialogues from that
movie into this one, under the pretext of Clarice reviewing the case - Scott's
idea of making an independent sequel), and make you want watch it (Silence...
not Hannibal) all over again.
All things considered though, you wish the makers of Hannibal had had the sense
to avoid meddling with things they didn't understand. Some silences are better