Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hannibal: Apéritif (1.1)

As a writer, something I've always wondered is whether there's much of a gulf between somebody who sits at a desk and creates acts of horrifying murder on the page, and those who actually commit acts of violent atrocity in the real world. Obviously there's a huge jump there, but isn't the creative mindset pretty similar? That to fathom some heinous act of violence when throwing together a new script for, I don't know, Criminal Minds or whatever, is similar in thinking to an actual serial killer wanting to commit a truly horrible murder? There's definitely a psychological correlation there, a desire to push the boundaries of taste and decency, only one outlet for it being far less harmful (though, arguably, no less damaging to society) than the other.

Hannibal, NBC's latest dramatic gamble after a season of numerous creative and economic disappointments, is keenly aware of that correlation, its pilot pitting two supposedly different men against one another, only for their similarities to constantly rise to the surface. As the legendary Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Mads Mikkelsen is slithery and vaguely European in origin, a smooth, underhand presence removed from the engaging but occasionally cartoonish performance that brought Anthony Hopkins to cultural prominence over twenty years ago. Here Lecter is very much in psychiatrist mode, finding something of a kindred spirit in Hugh Dancy's troubled FBI profiler, or at least a man he can carefully dissect and unravel like a good meal.

Dancy is surprisingly strong, too, his faced tired and drawn, Will Graham a fractured soul weighed down by his own mind. He's somewhere on the Autistic spectrum, and views crime scenes from within the bodies of the killers themselves -- meaning repeated scenes in which Graham stands adrift while time reverses around him, eventually becoming an active participant in carnage by inhabiting the murderer inside of the event itself.

Together they're an unusual team, Graham slipping closer to madness with every additional encounter with death, and Lecter circling him like a heavily-accented predator. It's a drum-tight psychological trick as a result, the show's protagonist constantly on edge, our secret antagonist (or at least a very bad man) having mastered this slippery façade enough to keep his extra-curricular activities hidden from sight. Together they'll presumably investigate additional killings every week, but with Lecter pulling various strings behind-the-scenes.

So far, so good. But what truly raises Hannibal above standard procedural storytelling is its visual aesthetic, director David Slade lending the pilot this dreamy energy, every scene awash in neutral colors and slow-panning intensity. It's almost like everything is constantly about to slip off the screen, or that sensation you experience when you're feeling faint. It's just incredibly gorgeous to look at, even before all the visual trickery of, say, antlers exploding from within a dead girl's body, or the repetitive swinging of a pendulum whenever Graham is haunted by a fearful feeling.

In a TV season that seems to have a specific interest in serial killers and the men chasing after them, Hannibal is starkly different in that it explores the sheer weight of murder from a psychological perspective. Lecter and Graham have a fantastic rapport, unequal in their power play but deep enough to be somewhat even at times, while EP Bryan Fuller is such a trusted hand when it comes to intriguing, slightly unconventional storytelling that it's easy to get excited about the show's future potential. A

Guest stars
Scott Thompson (Jimmy Price); Aaron Abrams (Brian Zeller); Dan Fogler (Franklyn); Kacey Rohl (Abigail Hobbs)
Writer Bryan Fuller Director David Slade

1 comment:

  1. A pilot that got an A? Well, now I'm excited to see it. It intrigued me from the start, being a Lecter fan, but I was too wary of being disappointed to check it out.