by Skylaire Alfvegren
Freud believed that adult personality is determined by childhood experiences, and few characters exemplify this notion better than Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter.
Americans are fortunate, having never experienced the horrors of war on the homefront. Cowering before a posse of half-starved Russian soldiers at the end of WWII, the young Lecter not only witnesses the violent deaths of his parents, but his beloved sister’s transformation into soup.
And that, as they say, was that. “We eat or die,” Hannibal (Gaspard Ulliel) is told by a commander biting the head off a dead fowl. More bloody faces are to follow, as the film traces Hannibal’s escape from a Soviet orphanage to his uncle’s Parisian estate. His uncle is dead, but Hannibal finds something resembling consolation in his Japanese widow, Lady Murasaki (Gong Li).
Her family perished in Hiroshima, but her empathy cannot retrieve Hannibal’s humanity; instead, her reverence for her ancestors translates into swords and masks, as Hannibal, accepted for a work scholarship to medical school, sketches the faces of the war criminals he later vanquishes.
Short on dialogue, long on shadows, the film is meticulous, not unlike Ulliel’s young Hannibal--much is said but not spoken. Hannibal manages to tick off those present at his sister’s death, while Lady Murasaki is told by Inspector Popil (Dominic West), “If your pet snake strikes in France, you’ll die under the guillotine.” Popil and Lecter both incriminate war criminals, but in a slightly different fashion. Hannibal’s main target, Grutas (played by Rhys Ifans) “walked at Nuremburg because the witness had acid poured down her throat.”
No need to fret, however. Infinitely clever, that Hannibal Lecter. And resourceful. And polite. Possessed by such a sense of honor—if only he could rid himself of that nasty habit of cannibalism.
© Skylaire Alfvegren written for and published by E! Online