Hannibal: A Doctor For All Ages?

To become part of a public consciousness is a wonderful, perhaps the most wonderful, compliment to strive for. The nature…

Brett Faulds

Contributor

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To become part of a public consciousness is a wonderful, perhaps the most wonderful, compliment to strive for. The nature of society as it exists today offers little more than a momentary idealism that lends to the reluctance of anything more than a singular perception of an event. From the existence of the horrific to the contact of a personal, a defensive mechanism places itself as a window of protection, absolution by a different form of social connectivity the standard to embrace unity via psychological isolation in opposition to the risk offered by considered emotional response.

Presented usually as a derogatory veil to draw over the plausibility that this is worth consideration in its viability as a response, I would argue the opposite entirely. The aforementioned consciousness in its most positive form lends itself more to the side of acceptance and memory if the subject at hand offers control over receivership. Consciousness at its most negative does not and the severity of presentation from what the world asks us to remember far outweighs our desire to find the positive. Historically, the evidence supports this in its suggestive ratio of characters prevailing more than the performers, especially as a comparative to present day, where performers are lent upon and sold as primarily the reason to embrace the character.

Naturally, retaining authorship of our own imagination lends to the veracity of assimilation of character (and again, the rejection of consciousness at its most negative). The medium of film, where we recite lines as the actors rather than the characters for example does not lend to such authorship. Novels however, do (perhaps more accurate to say, did). What makes say, Harry Potter such an extraordinary achievement is the birth of its reverence (1997) occurred at a time when entertainment media and medium was slowly forming itself into the momentary. One could suggest the very last example of old fashioned method of authorship. It is absolutely the contradiction then as the more visual aspects of entertainment return to a period where construction of imagination was called upon to inform their next phase of production, it is unfortunately counterbalanced with an absolute plethora of examples weighing itself towards the momentary (amusingly, usually under the descriptive of ‘reality’).

The notion then of reality in narrative further details the requirement placed on the desire for control over receivership. The designation of will in assertion of being free can become equal hindrance and opportunity. Uncertainty lends itself to the possibility of a design without conclusion. What presents itself as design in a reality not dictated by narrative can lend itself towards the recipient embracing the need for this conclusion to become apparent. What concerns the world at one stage of development is prone to repetition informed by the past which in turn forms itself into the future. Thus the desire for control over receivership remains as prevalent now as at any time previously documented.

It is of importance though to recognise the ownership privileges of those who embrace such methods. The separation though of mediums such as film/TV against novels centers predominately on authorship of imagination. A division of two categories presents itself. One of those who experience and share as promotion of validation and affirmation. One of those embracing personal confirmation in relation to individual recognition.

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This of course remains the core strength in relation to the old fashioned form of receivership. It is easy to subscribe to a more cynical view that with progression at the expense of this form the whole itself lends to complacency of participation in creation. The argument may fall on both sides, but whilst this assumption lends itself to a form of truth, it is then in the small details we find generational divide, disparities in what one finds to be the purest form when in actuality progression is simply lending itself to a wider range of variety.

“The book is a film that takes place in the mind of the reader. That’s why we go to movies and say, “Oh, the book is better.” Paulo Coelho (author)

Or, when visualisation of previous authorship of imagination becomes intrusion. Primarily falling into category two of the above, what was once an exercise of ignorance now becomes connective forum of discussion. The allowance of interpretation falls primarily on one of permission. It is no longer enough to anticipate the transference of source material unless it adheres principally to each individual projection and in an industry that primes its success on word of mouth, instinct therefore substitutes their imagination into submission. Whilst this might promote the idealism that back before such opinion could be heard so loudly, creativity of source material was afforded the freedom of expression for if such dissent cannot be heard the surely it can then be ignored.

The truth is one of similarity for difference of reasoning. Whereas today it is a catering of source material as compromise, when we arrive at ‘Manhunter’ (1986) we see a catering born out of reverence. Perhaps this is simply due to recognition for at the time of ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991) these characters and those worlds remained rooted towards those claimed authorship. Of course, now we know. Now we identify with Dr. Lecter. Now he was public domain and in respects the loss of ownership that followed Demme’s movie would be one of the rare examples in which allowance was allowed, forgiven, appreciated.

“It really is a love story, for lack of a better description, between these two characters.” Bryan Fuller (writer, creator of ‘Hannibal’)

Fundamentally the core reversal of what we know about these two (at least, until later series), we arrive at what has been seen to those claiming initial authorship as the most controversial aspect of the show. However, what did we actually know in the first place? Arriving at these characters previously indicted a prior relationship hinted towards but rarely contextualised. Therefore licence combined with reverence merely to offer such context plays directly into the both the perception of what the show winks at the audience with and the anonymity of the two leads. Regularly stating a desire for a seven season arc (with ‘Red Dragon’ coming into play during the fourth) will of course fuel the debate with more validity than current disagreement, but we arrive at ‘Red Dragon’ viewing the world through Will Graham’s eyes as we arrive at ‘Hannibal’ doing the same.

The conclusion then simply rests at the performance level of the leads and their ability to eradicate what we essentially do know and did not know in the first place. We can also conclude the importance of casting could be in direct relation to the ideology of premise. In the same way preconceptions about on screen persona correlates with expectancy of audience and compliance of performer (in movie terms, consolidation. In TV terms, particularly sitcoms, typecasting), we can therefore suggest the conceived anonymity of the two leads lend wait to the theory of purpose. Indeed, the notion that we have two performers the majority have had little reason to arrive it other than occasional interaction with entertainment media in its highest of profile (in a lovely circular aspect, both leads were in ‘King Arthur’ (2004)) could be exactly the reason a fervent loyalty of cult has formed. Not dissimilar to a time when pages had to be turned, yes?

Perhaps then it finalises as one of familiarity in concurrence with the maturity of the medium itself. If there is to always be appreciation for a newer interpretation, there must a previous authorship of equation exist. It would be tempting then to offer revisionism towards the movies as the necessary bridge of the Dr. Lector that was once read and the design of what we now experience.

“I believe that he’s as close to Satan as can be – the fallen angel. He sees the beauty in death. And every day is a new day, full of opportunities.” Mads Mikkelsen (Dr. Hannibal Lector)

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A grieving father discovering a door into a parallel universe attempts to reconnect with his dead daughter. A teacher falsely accused of exposing himself to a child. A mute Norse warrior marching towards his fate. Igor Stravinsky. Of course, the majority will reference a Bond villain, but this is a career forged in intelligence and consideration. The odd dalliance with Hollywood aside, Mr. Mikkelsen has conducted his career as one of opportunity for expression (as opposed to profile of ego). Whilst in many ways as managed as those who stand under the light to validate their worth, credibility of anonymity allows for chameleonic transference. The disparity between on screen performance and profile of performer becomes increasingly hard to separate the higher up the chain determination of ego places a recipient. But it is right and possibly purposeful for what is still a relatively unknown screen presence of indeterminate accent to play today’s interpretation of Dr. Lecter (ironically, a recurrence then of the recent Hollywood trend of placing a veil over identity or perception of performer in relation to character). A desire, if you will, to replace the momentary with mystery.

The subverting of public consciousness about this character becomes equitable to the principle allure of the show then. Fuller has been wise to conclude that to whilst compete against the public authorship already afforded to principal characters encouraged by both Harris and Jonathan Demme’s staggering ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ itself presents the challenge of the preconceived, the opportunity to fall back to a former period of time where no such knowledge existed but for the unfolding of the speed a page was turned should rightly have been considered not only in the casting of Dr. Lector but in the contemporising of the setting itself.

This is the world of today, with all the technological accruements and immediacy of information at hand to offer the viewer the clarity that lending the premise a setting of recognition must also lend us a character of likewise. Therefore, this is the Dr. Lector of range, of emotional vulnerability, of fascination to analysis not only towards the unfolding of scenarios he has set into play but also towards personal reaction and justification of action. One can only conclude a personality not entirely different from Mr. Mikkelsen himself, his desire for recognition redundant, secondary to his career design for intelligence and consideration as it plays into the indefinable Mr. Mikkelsen has himself specialised in promoting.

“It’s very simple. He has retreated from the world. Jack and Dr. Lecter are kind of the angels on his shoulder.” Hugh Dancy (Will Graham)

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Both the anomaly and the secret weapon of the show. Primarily born onto British TV before homing craft on the stage, it is easy to parallel opportunity with that of Bryan Fuller (and indeed, the preference of anonymity with that of Mr. Mikkelsen). It is perhaps then to the credit of the evolution of TV as a forum for expression that we place gratitude towards the contradictory nature of momentary in relation of crossover between named players from big screen to small. It is considered to theorise on the exact stage words on the two hour page declined to the extent performance insisted of the more substantial opportunity afforded by episodic replacement (Rob Lowe on ‘The West Wing’ being a notable transition). Perhaps it is in relation to the subscription of profiling of ego combined with devolution of the big screen towards the momentary (the connection between the decline of writing on the big screen in conjunction with the staggering increase on the small screen cannot be by chance). It is then with consideration and celebration we offer towards Mr. Dancy for both patience and recognition of opportunity.

It could’ve all been so different of course with Fuller himself admitting how close David Tennant was to gaining the role (to the extent Fuller is determined to still write him a major role in the show). Revisionism offers only the possibility of comparison should doubt exist about the capability of performance (consider executives almost dismissed Bryan Cranston as Walter White, favouring John Cusack and Matthew Broderick. Yes. Ferris Bueller). It is on this very premise such indelible reception submits the irrefutable counterpoint that it is almost an impossibility to imagine anyone other than Mr. Dancy as Will Graham. The legitimate nature of performance demands this in a manner not unfamiliar with similar touchstones the public consciousness has comes to recognise as definitive. How definitive will simply fall into the category of persistence of presence. It takes more than one season for the majority to qualify it as such.

“What we have is Alfred Hitchcock’s principle of suspense — show the audience the bomb under the table and let them sweat when it’s going to go boom.” Bryan Fuller

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The resonance of this methodology therefore encourages the patience and the care to focus primarily on the extraordinary performances of the two leads and the contrasting natures of their personalities. We are walking into the psychosis of Will Graham, almost intrusively, as the audience. We are in turn being analysed by Dr. Lector, falling into the charm of his calculation as verification of existence and purpose. It is the singular difference between the gratuitous nature of violence at the service of narrative and violence as gratuitous at the disservice of contextual weight. Consider also the very construction of the narrative and the palette of the show overall. Here we witness the absolute horror as defined by Will’s deconstruction of a scene into the absurd but brutal operatic result more in tone with Dr. Lecter’s refinement. More so than the regular exchanges between the two (the calm operating and conducting the storm), these are the connecting traits melding into the perception of the audience, mirroring both the decisive opposites and the connective strands between to the two characters.

The theory presented then is one of potential evolution of character, that Dr. Lecter is the natural arc towards the evolution of Will Graham’s character (as the Dr. himself says, “You catch these killers by getting into their heads, but you also allow them into your own.”). The validity of this conclusion is all in the work of the camera for when the clarity submits itself that something has indeed been the design of one Dr. Lecter, we can separate the calm sedation of documentation towards the horrific with the uncertainty and subversion away from the guiding hand. These are the fundamental levels on which Hannibal himself guides us, permeating our dreams, invading our psychological analytical selves. The further Will slips into uncertainty the more we are but obliged to do so also. Supporting characters exist primarily as momentum and consciousness, inserts of provocation and rationale offering designation and destination (Jack Crawford as the singular perception of an event. Alana Bloom the defence mechanism).

What we are experiencing then is less a presentation of episodic television but more an analogy for how we conclude and conduct ourselves into rationalisation and isolation. Control over receivership. The masterstroke then of the show is to embrace the reverence, the preconceived to serve the narrative and to control the idea of authorship and subvert it to the audience as reassurance of conclusion. The very essence of this acknowledgement places the freedom into the hands of the audience in a manner similar to reciprocity. A promise if you will that no matter how the negative the perception of what is presented on the screen affects the end result will still form into the positive desired.

“I think with death, you can’t minimize it. It’s so big. It’s something that holds a lot of magic and mystery for me.” Bryan Fuller

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A more pertinent quote about his career one could not find. To clarify the context of the above, this was the final line of an explanation of how much he enjoyed going to funerals mainly for the indulgence of attention from family and friends that were not already attuned to his interests and personality. It is in fact morbidly amusing to plot the inception of his fascination towards death through these events, offering his own authorship of the how, why and what comes next (I suspect he adores ‘Six Feet Under’). Indeed, the synopsis for both ‘Dead Like Me’ (Girl dies. Becomes a Reaper to take souls before others die and led them to the afterlife) and ‘Pushing Daisies’ (Guy can bring things back to life with touch. If for longer than a minute, something else of similar value dies) indicates the optimism so regularly on display when interviewed and reflective lends itself to a personality obsessed with potential answers whilst retaining the knowledge that at the end of his own personal existence he will be afforded a conclusive answer to a lifetime fascination.

If we then are to draw a connective line of how Mr. Fuller has grown to perceive death, we chart it thusly as romanticism to anarchy to the maturity of reality and finality. One of the defining characteristics of any human being is to embrace the notion of mortality as certainty when age combats the memory of adolescence. If we are to parallel then Mr. Fuller as characters of his own shows, the conclusion lends itself towards the notion that in ‘Hannibal’, he is both Will Graham (the kid attending funerals if you like) and Dr. Lector (the aforementioned maturity of reality and finality). To take this to its natural conclusion, if this is indeed the moment where Mr. Fuller is taking stock in purpose and placement, it would seem entirely appropriate then for this to be the show where he gets closer to the answer than any previous stage has afforded him to do so.

“We’re so proud of Bryan’s vision for a show that is richly textured, psychologically complex, and very compelling. There are many great stories still to be told.” Jennifer Salke (NBC Entertainment President)

It was a torturous wait though. The way it works is simple. New shows get commissioned, statistics and viewing figures are taken into account and major networks hold a presentation detailing what is staying and what is going. However, cruelly, ‘Hannibal’ had to wait an extra two weeks to learn of its fate (Dr. Lecter himself would be appalled at such rudeness). With news of dwindling viewing figures in conjunction with a delay in decision, fairness would offer the opinion all was not going to end well. But Bryan Fuller was due one. Critically adored for both his writing and creation of shows throughout his career, never more was the desire for quality of content secondary to the bottom line of quantity of viewership. The substantial acquiescing once more to the desire for the immediacy of the momentary.

Thankfully, ‘Hannibal’ had three things in its favour. The first being the designation of the show as an international co-production and therefore more cost –effective towards the network. The second being the promotion of interest from other networks should NBC not offer a renewal. The third, one suspects, is what started this all. The reverence towards the characters themselves and especially to that of Dr. Lecter, so once brilliantly aligned into public consciousness that it is simply only a matter of correctness of promotion from NBC and good old fashioned page turning word of mouth to put him back where he belongs.