Monday, March 27, 2006

Hannibal (2001)

The Silence of the Lambs is generally considered to be a modern film classic, amongst critics and cinemagoers alike. There was much expectation then when a sequel was released ten years later. The reaction to this new film was far from positive. The general consensus was that Hannibal lacked the intelligence and subtlety of The Silence of the Lambs, opting instead for gratuitous violence and gore. Anthony Hopkins and Frankie Faison returned from the original cast, while Julianne Moore took on the daunting task of filling Jodie Foster’s shoes as Clarice.

As with The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal is based on Thomas Harris’ novel of the same name. Hannibal, the book, is a very different creature to Silence of the Lambs, the book, so it’s only natural the film is different too. As an adaptation of the novel, the film fails miserably, but this is a very good thing, as an adaptation that stuck more closely to the source material would’ve made a far less enjoyable film. The book’s ending in particular split the fans; personally, I prefer the ending of the film (bar the final scene, which I rather pretend never happened).

It seems to me that Hannibal has been unfairly criticised in the shadow of The Silence of the Lambs. There is no denying that Hannibal is an inferior film, but nonetheless it has its own merits. The cast is still strong. Julianne Moore does a fine job as a very different Clarice to the young woman of Silence of the Lambs. Anthony Hopkins is as wonderful as ever, even if the Dr. Lecter of this film is a hammier character than he was in The Silence of the Lambs. Gary Oldman is suitably insane as the film’s hideously disfigured antagonist, Mason Verger, as Ray Liotta is suitably vile as resident creep, Paul Krendler.

Ridley Scott’s direction is at times beautiful, helped greatly by the stunning scenery of Florence in early sequences. There is much more gore in this film and it does occasionally feel unnecessary – slow motion effects feel over-used in the film’s first major sequence; a gruesome shoot-out. Much of the violence is taken directly from the book, however.

Hans Zimmer’s haunting score is sublime, making use of classical pieces as well as original compositions. The soundtrack also includes an aria specially composed by Patrick Cassidy, Vide Cor Meum, which uses words taken from La Vita Nuova by Dante Aligheri, a figure mentioned often in the film.

All that’s needed to make this film good is to forget about the sheer brilliance of The Silence of the Lambs. Neither particularly demanding nor subtle, the film is a great piece of popcorn-cinema; something some might argue was done with the book. The increased presence of Dr. Lecter himself might be simply to please mass audiences, rather than present a new and original story. Whereas this film is not a prime example of cinema like its predecessor, it is, in its own right, highly enjoyable.


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