Sunday, February 25, 2007


I'm a fan of truly well crafted villains. On my list of truly well crafted villains is Hannibal Lector from Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon and Hannibal.

Last night I went to see Hannibal Rising. It tells the story of how Hannibal became who he is. His journey to being a serial killer is now complete.

It brought to mind the recent discussion on the ACFW loop about how villains are portrayed in today's popular fiction. Secular fiction tends to take the viewpoint of justifying what the villain does, trying to say he's not really evil and totally a product of his circumstances. Christian fiction naturally takes the Biblical view of evil, a view that tends to be more true to the real world and to real villains.

It can be argued that Hannibal is evil through and through. It can also be argued that he's merely a victim of circumstance. I don't know exactly what Thomas Harris thinks about villains are formed, but here's my take on this particular villain.


Hannibal Rising finally goes into great detail about Hannibal's childhood and how he lost his family. He's Lithuanian and French, and grew up in Lithuania. In 1944 when the Russians and Germans were in their heaviest fighting in that country, Hannibal and his family retreated to their hunting lodge to try to stay safe. While there, his parents are killed and Hannibal is left to care for his little sister.

They're found by German mercenaries and they all end up holed up in the lodge during winter with nothing to eat. His little sister becomes sick, and the Germans decide to kill her. Cannibalism. It's a documented fact that this happened on the Eastern front.

Hannibal is finally rescued when the Russians push the Germans back. He's been traumatized by the gruesome death of his beloved sister, and witnessing the deaths of his parents, also due to the Germans. He spends the next 8 years in a Russian orphanage set up in the castle where he lived.

He finally runs away and goes to his uncle's house in Paris. There he is presented with multiple opportunities to forgive the Germans who killed his sister and to turn them over to an inspector who's hunting down war criminals. He purposely chooses not to turn them in, but to find their names and take care of them himself.

For theone who was in charge, his aunt begs him not to kill the man, but to forgive him. For a brief moment you can tell that Hannibal is considering the idea, and then decides not to forgive him, but to kill him.

It's a very gruesome movie, not for the faint of heart. Lots of blood and guts. But still beautifully done in terms of costumes and sets and location filming. And very well cast. The kid who plays Hannibal was simply amazing and really portrayed the depth of the character.

In the end, from my view, it leaves you with the impression that Hannibal CHOSE to be who he is. He didn't have to be a serial killer/cannibal. He had multiple opportunities to stop and chose to ignore every single one of them, rationalizing it in his mind. That part isn't portrayed in the movie, but I'm pretty sure it's all in the book. Harris isn't afraid to tackle the difficult scenes. Those scenes are what define him as a writer and allowed him to define Hannibal as one of the best villains ever created.

Circumstances do play a part in how a person turns out. There's no denying that. But today's society puts too much off on circumstances and not enough on personal responsibility and choice. I'm probably one of only a few people who will view the movie and Hannibal as a character in this way. But that's ok. I'm used to that!

1 comment :

  1. You know, I didn't even read the book Hannibal Rising. I was so terribly disappointed in Hannibal. I wanted to throw that book across the room when he had Clarisse turn into a cannibal with him. She would NEVER do that! It was a twist that was merely for shock value. They fixed it in the screen version but I lost all interest in reading the next book.

    Hannibal is the perfect villain though. There has never been another crafted as well.