Re-Watching Hannibal 3/Red Dragon: Child’s Play [Part 2]

[Continuing from yesterday’s post, part 1/episode 8 of Hannibal 3]

First of all a quick thank you to all who are watching along and have left comments on the blog yesterday and today. A couple of themes were mentioned in the comments that I had also noted down for episode 1 – but then decided to defer to episode 2; just to keep it short.

Tense with despair. Francis Dolarhyde is unhappy with his performance. Hannibal 3×09

1. Clawing back

So, back to the topic of movement. While episode 1 opened with Francis Dolarhyde sitting in the company canteen and observing his own hands as if they were foreign objects, the second instalment of the Red Dragon arc opened with the summary of Francis’ childhood, leading into the first time we see him watching one of the films where he captures himself while committing the beastly murders. Thankfully Interestingly, Francis is dressed down to his tighty underpants, watching the footage. Yet titillation it is not. At least not for him. He is annoyed and ashamed by what he considers an imperfect performance, and the uncomfortableness and dissatisfaction is shown in his tensed-up gestures.

Sorry these images are so dark – the usual complaint – but I was absolutely fascinated with this. The larger picture above shows it much clearer, but in the whole scene, FD’s hands look like claws, with bent fingers and sinewy tension visible. I thought this was a really interesting characterisation – as observed by others in the comments, too. I had seen the claws as a reference to dragon by way of birds. Squirrel pointed out that it is a reference to dragons via reptiles. Touché. Both birds and reptiles are related – not least in the sense that dragons appear to be a hybrid creature, a flying lizard, or a reptilian bird…

I was fascinated by the hyper tensed, claw-like hands as a physical characterisation, wondering where this idea came from? As far as I remember, these gestures were not suggested in the original book by Harris. So where did this come from? The mind of Bryan Fuller as the showrunner, or the mind of the actor? (Maybe a question to be asked at RDC5!) Doesn’t really matter who came up with it – the important thing is that at a point where Francis still hasn’t talked within the course of the show, this is a really effective characterisation of him: This is a man under duress, he is forced into something, he is a tortured sould, and he is scary in capital letters!

Is it a bird? Is it a reptile? No, it’s the red dragon… RA scares as Francis Dolarhyde in Hannibal 3×09

Wow! This is devillish, inhuman, monsterlike. There is no humanity in this creature. It is mindless and madness. And once again the sounds coming from his mouth are awesome – in both meanings of the word – fantastic in terms of acting, but also as inhuman, tortured and painful as the physicality of this beast.

2. Child’s Play

So while we are looking at the above picture, let’s address another interesting bit about Francis. Granted, the screenshot is grainy and small, and the cinematography is dark, anyway, but have a look at Francis there. Have you noticed how smooth and clean-shaven he is? And I don’t only mean his chin (although: hooray – dump the beard!) but especially his chest. As smooth as a baby’s bottom. Well, it reminds me of this quote I recently re-read somewhere, of RA on his characterisation of Francis:

The actual implementation is pretty obvious to see in that scene above. And yet, once I thought about the whole theme of Francis being stuck developmentally as a child, it became glaringly obvious in other scenes, too. After the film scene, Francis story goes back to the company canteen. Francis is looking at a tabloid article about Hannibal Lecter, touching the photo of Lecter with his finger. The newspaper ink rubs off on his finger, and Francis notices it, stares, and tentatively licks his finger. This, again, to me had a somewhat naive, innocent feeling reminiscent of young children: I remember particularly my son being an “observer” – fascinated and spellbound by things, staring and watching and observing, completely still and very patient. There is an innocence in Francis’ staring and observing – as if he is seeing something for the first time (like a child does), trying to make sense of the world (like a child does). I found something similar in a later scene in Reba’s house where Francis suddenly sits stock-still when Reba mentions speech therapy. His reaction – the head bowed down, the mouth shut, the way he is withdrawing from Reba – again struck me as child-like. It’s the classic terrified and intimidated child who has been beaten into submission by too many bad experiences. Hence the refusal to react at all, and simply just shut down.

Francis is – despite his horrible deeds – an innocent of sorts, and that characterisation is so subtly put forward by RA, I think it doesn’t necessarily register with the audience at all. The movements are so sparingly used, it is almost genius how Armitage does it. No matter whether this is all his own interpretation or the direction of the directors and scriptwriters – it’s just so perfectly done, so convincing – and SO NOT Armitage’s own mannerisms. He plays the child amazingly accurately – and makes me wonder how he came up with it all, and how he prepared for this.

3. Photographer’s Porn

Even a few years down the road from initially seeing this show, I am still absolutely mesmerised by the third scene in this episode. Francis visits the processing lab in his company, hoping to get some extra-light sensitive infrared film out of the technician. (It’s a speciality film that would otherwise be hard to procure.) In any case, he visits the lab and meets Reba McClane for the first time. I admit – I get slightly side-tracked by all the photographic props in there – the roll of film, the developer sloshing into a receptacle, Reba handling the developing tank. So, haha, to me this is a very sensual scene.

Sexyyyyyy

Ok, but seriously: Have you noticed how the intro to Reba suddenly puts massive emphasis on sound?! There is the developer being poured into a glass, then the film chack-chackchacking on the reel. It’s as if the show’s soundtrack ís also telling us here that Reba is blind, but her sense of sound is acute. (Which OTOH makes me wonder why she isn’t turned off by the man in the scene later in her house when he shovels the food into his mouth and eats and grunts like a pig… an animal eating, of course, the monster that he is… how come that Reba does not notice that? Is that a detail they overlooked?

4. The deets

Talking of details – the detailed acting and scripting of the show continues. I absolutely adore the “May I touch your face” scene: Reba wants to “see with her hands” and touch Francis’ face to see whether he is smiling. RA acts Francis’ reaction masterfully: the sudden intake of breath, the scared and horrified look, staring at Reba in horror. He takes a perceptible gulp that makes his adam’s apple bob, and he withdraws into himself for a second before he grabs her hand, stops her from touching him – and tells her he is smiling . Who did RA observe to get this reaction so spot-on???

Francis shrinks back from Reba’s hand. Scene in Hannibal 3×09

If it wasn’t for the ending of this episode, which is a preview of the following episode, I would’ve said that this is a pretty perfect second round with Francis. But brrrr, I still really do not like the way Francis chats with Lecter on the phone ending on his claim that he is the “great reeeeed draaaaaagonnnnn”. But then again, that’s almost comically child-like as well…

The gorgeous half-light…

What are your thoughts? Speechless? Well, I don’t blame you…

Not Mykita Berlin… Francis dons his magnifying goggles in Hannibal 3×09

 

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35 thoughts on “Re-Watching Hannibal 3/Red Dragon: Child’s Play [Part 2]

  1. That is one terrifying snarling beast in that image and I’ve mentioned before how much his rounded posture and snarl reminds me of another William Blake painting, The Ghost of a Flea ( sorry that I can’t upload). Although it would have been helpful to have more scenes of his childhood, particularly if you hadn’t read the book, I liked the economy of the dinner scene with his mother and how the child Francis merged with the adult – also there would have been more of the child actor if they’d explored this more and not so much RA! Other thoughts are that I really like the dark room scene too, for once the murkiness provides some beautiful half-shadow glimpses of Armitage and there is a flirty ( Gertie!) light-hearted quality to his responses to Reba, at odds with his previous intenseness – perhaps it’s a mark of their immediate comparability.
    I don’t understand why he shovels that pie so fast, as if he is starving, unless he really loves pies ( we know RA loves pork pies) but I like the ambiguity of ‘Trust me I’m smiling’ remark’. Is he? He looks so wonderfully sinister. And I agree about the Great- Red – Dragon at the end.

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    • The dinner scene was actually really well done, and as you say, it is really clever how they merge child Francis with adult Francis. You are hitting the nail on the head, though – Fuller himself said somewhere that the childhood scenes would’ve demanded to find a really good, young actor, and that was a difficulty that they didn’t want to address, so scrapped the whole thing. (I still think it would’ve been good to explore more of the childhood.)
      IDK, I guess he might have been eating the pie so fast because he was uncomfortable and wanted to quickly get out of there again.
      I didn’t think he was smiling at all. (And the book original is actually really interesting at that point, because it talks about Francis ruminating that it would be so easy to just break this woman right there and then, literally snap her in half, and kill her. Yet he doesn’t – and that is the fascination of their relationship…)

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  2. Je n’ai pas l’impression que le sujet du film est la description de cet être en tant qu’enfant. Mais plutôt du passage de l’enfance à l’âge adulte: la métamorphose de l’adolescence. Il subit cet état d’enfant mal fabriqué, mal dans sa peau, mal dans sa tête. D’enfant à identité indéterminée et psychisme perturbé, il veut se transformer en un être idolâtré = le dragon rouge. Pour se transformer en adulte, il doit s’affranchir des règles qui lui sont imposées par sa famille, la société, …
    Cette transgression passe ici par une violence envers lui-même scarification, musculation, tatouage, changement d’identité qui représentent sa transformation physique et psychique à l’adolescence.
    La violence est tournée aussi envers les autres. Que ce soit dans le conte du “Petit Chaperon Rouge”, ou l’ histoire du ” Comte Dracula”, le cannibalisme avec le sang représentent l’acte sexuel. Il devient adulte en tombant amoureux de Reda… Mais est-il pour cela un être masculin? On peut en douter puisqu’ il renie Reda. Alors, toujours en quête d’identification au dragon rouge, il finira par joindre la ‘dromance” de William et Hannibal. Dans un sacrifice que je rapproche de celui des rites Celtes.

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    • I’m not quite sure whether I have understood you correctly, Squirrel. I agree with you that the show is not about Francis being a child. It’s about him being a weird mixture of man and child, of human and beast, of innocent and evil. Or about transition – although I don’t really think it’s about a transition from child to man. It’s only about the “becoming” – the transition from human to other.
      Interesting reference re. blood = sex/adulthood. With Francis biting his victims and quite obviously somehow revelling in the blood, there is a sexual connotation there (although not cannibalism – he only bites, he doesn’t eat). And btw, I don’t think he denies Reba. He quite clearly has sex with her and only gives her up afterwards.

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  3. Il est à pointer que souvent, la psychiatrie note que la schizophrénie apparait au passage de l’adolescence à l’âge adulte. Mais cette volonté de se fondre dans la peau d’un cannibale, montre que déjà depuis bien longtemps, FD présentait une personnalité psychologiquement gravement perturbée.

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    • I’m not sure if google translation had it correct, but when you mention cannibalism Squirrel, is it in reference to Lector or Dolarhyde? Francis’s MO was biting wasn’t it?

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      • Here, I only thought and wrote about FD. But sure, his nickname is “The Tooth Fairy” due to his nocturnal nature of his crimes. I could compare him to either werewolf or vampire too. Hannibal Lector could be both his mentor and role model.

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  4. You know you’ve done something heinous when you can’t bear to watch the results on film. It seems as though Francis’ playback of his latest victims is causing him severe anguish but he is helpless to resist the powerful draw of his obsession. Interesting how his pain manifests into a dragons tail extended from his body. At once a thrill and a horror, his transformation has already begun. This inner struggle with the Dragon is Francis at his scariest, I feel.
    I like that you included the quote about the childlike aspect of his portrayal. It does rather enhance the quality of a kind of innocence and social awkwardness. He has grown up abused and ill used not only by his family but from society. He has kind of been socially stunted and it has resulted in this man-child (who while physically powerful seems a little less masculine by his appearance). The meeting with Reba in the dark room and the subsequent invitation into her home were both great scenes. He’s never had anyone show an interest in getting to know him before and he seems both intrigued and guarded. RA really does a great performance here. As soon as Reba mentions her experience in speech therapy Francis withdraws and his awkwardness returns. The way he wolfs down his pie harkens to a guy who never learned table manners (or he just wants to hurry up and get away.) But I liked how she tried to ease his discomfort by complimenting his speech and letting him know she’s interested in what he has to say. She probably thinks a blind person reaching out and touching a persons’ face to get to know them is not strange but oh man, It freaked Francis out. His reaction was so well portrayed. And his “Trust me I’m smiling” was sweet but kind of creepy too. This episode ended for me with Francis basically fangirling Hannibal..because why wouldn’t he? It’s all about his becoming and who would appreciate it (aka be in awe) more than Hannibal?

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    • That inner struggle – the thrill and the horror of “becoming” – is the most interesting bit about Francis, psychologically. And probably also in terms of portraying him. The dichotomy between good and evil – and the ever-tempting question why someone makes the decisions the way he does. What could’ve been IF… I have the impression that it is exactly this IF that RA is so interested in, and Francis was definitely a huge IF.
      And the relationship between Reba and Francis is a fantastic ingredient to the IF. If she hadn’t been blind, he wouldn’t have let her come close. And if she hadn’t been as sensitive, he might’ve killed her rather than spared her.
      As for the ending – yes, he definitely is fangirling Hannibal, and I never quite got that, either. He does the same in the book, so it’s not just a ruse to keep the material coming for a third season of Hannibal. But ok, I guess it is what he says – he “admires” Lecter’s “work”. After all they are both serial killers, and Lecter is a “celebrity”, so no wonder that Francis wants the attention and approval of the man he admires.

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      • Wenn Reba nicht blind wäre, hätte sie ihn aber auch gar nicht nah an sich heran gelassen. Denn sein Verhalten ist doch oft so seltsam, dass man als sehender Mensch instinktiv Abstand halten würde.
        Die Szene ihres ersten Aufeinandertreffens ist wirklich wunderbar umgesetzt. Romantik da, wo man sie nicht erwartet.
        So, wie er den Kuchen herunter schlingt, sieht es tatsächlich nur nach schlechten Tischmanieren aus. Und du hast recht, eigentlich sollte Reba die Geräusche eher abstoßend finden. Als er dann ihre Hand packt – da wird extem Spannung erzeugt, weil man sich fragt, was nun passiert und irgendwie erwartet, dass er gleich etwas schreckliches tut (ging mir zumindest so).
        Sie wird ganz sicher gehört haben, dass er nicht lächelt. Nun frage ich mich, ob Francis in diesen sechs Episoden überhaupt ein einziges Mal lächeln wird.

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        • Ja, das mit der Blindheit funktioniert für beide Seiten storytechnisch gut und erklärt, warum er sie und sie ihn ranlässt.
          Das Francis im Film ihre Hand festhält, um sie davon abzuhalten, sein Gesicht (und damit seine gespaltene Lippe) abzutasten, kommt 1:1 aus der Romanvorlage. Und da geht es dann aber noch viel intensiver weiter – obwohl die filmische Umsetzung die Spannung und die Gefahr eigentlich sehr schön darstellt. Im Buch überlegt Francis konkret, ob er sie jetzt beißen soll, wie das wäre und warum er ist nicht tut. Auch sehr spannend gemacht.
          Lächelt er überhaupt – ich finde das ist eine fantastische Frage, die du da stellst. Denn das ist mir noch gar nicht weiter aufgefallen, aber ich glaube, deine Frage zielt bereits in die richtige Antwort: Nein.

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  5. I’ve only had the chance to watch the first two parts this evening, but in a way it was good that I had already read the comments here and in the previous post before doing so. Honestly, I am a truly superficial viewer – I like/love something or I don’t, I laugh, I’m scared, I’m touched, I cry, but never really seeing below the surface – or at least, never really delving into why I feel a certain way. For that reason I have always enjoyed reading Serv’s posts and the subsequent discussions, as well as those here too when you post something in a more serious vein Guylty. I’m forced to think, consider and reconsider, to question.
    With the comments in mind then, I rewatched the fan cut for the first time in ages, and I think I gained more from it this time around. I don’t have anything more to add to what’s been said, you and the others here express yourselves much more eloquently than I can. Suffice to say that although my heart sank when I heard RA was taking on this role, I am glad he did so. His performance is incredible, he completely disappeared into the character, even without any dialogue. I find Francis absolutely terrifying, yet I can still find it in me to feel sorry for him, because of Richard’s portrayal. I’ve never understood why he didn’t receive more recognition for the role.

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    • i’m the same – i don’t focus too much on why i like any type of art, especially initially, i just immerse myself in how it makes me feel. But it’s very eye opening to read interpretations because you start to understand why you do feel those emotions

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    • Le premier visionnage ne peut être que celui de la découverte. On apprécie le film ou le rejette. Puis viennent les revisionnages. C’est en regardant le film en profondeur que l’analyse vient.

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    • I don’t think there is a right or a wrong when it comes to watching shows, Mezz. I have always been more interested in the “meta” of anything – the “what does it mean”, the why, the how, the what if. Sometimes I regret that I cannot switch off that part of my brain that wants to know all these (unnecessary) other things. Why can’t I just sit back and experience? But yeah, granted, it’s handy for a discussion afterwards 😉
      I completely agree with your last sentence. This performance was really, really great. It is definitely up there with Proctor – a role that he received Olivier Award recognition for by way of a nomination. Or Thorin, whose madness he portrayed so effectively (but where, again, he was also overshadowed by others). IDK, I suspect that some of the lack of recognition really might go back to himself. Not attacking him here, or offending him – I just think that his modesty and quietly reserved manner means that he never pushed himself and his achievements to the foreground. He received (and always receives) a lot of praise from his cast-mates, though. Maybe that is enough for him.

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      • Praise from directors such as Peter Jackson would mean a lot to him as well I imagine. I’ve always had the impression awards don’t play a big part for him. He’s certainly made it clear in the past he’s not enamoured of the red carpet and I can’t see him playing the award game. I read somewhere recently that, with both Bradley Cooper and Rami Malek being nominated for a Golden Globe for best actor, the writer basically inferred that Cooper wouldn’t win because he doesn’t play the award game. He’s not interested in the schmoozing that’s required, whereas Malek is. Malek won. That’s not to take away from his performance as Freddie Mercury. I haven’t seen the movie but from what I’ve heard and seen his performance was incredible, and the GG was well deserved.

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        • Good point – he hasn’t really hunted awards (although he was very gracious when he accepted the few awards he has won so far), but the appreciation of his directors and co-workers seems important to him. I wonder whether it is also important to him that the audience appreciates and applauds his work. (I’m not really talking about *his* fans as such, but the audience at large.) Somehow I really want him to want my approval 😂

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  6. so i watched this part today, anyone else notice the bus stop advertisement with the open mouth? lol
    definatley cool to really notice all the childlike behaviour mixed in with his adult behaviour-which i guess they did make visually obvious with the legs swinging under the dinner table
    regarding his quick eating-i’m not entirely sure what that was about-possibly because he didn’t really want to be in her house so ate quickly to get it doen with, or because it’s animalistic or because he’s childlike behavior involves having poor table manners!
    Trust me I’m smiling-she must know that he’s not by the manner he grabs her hand and the way he says that?
    Its interesting that she says she likes that she hears no pity in his voice but her behaviour is leaning in that direction

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    • Yep – there is a lot of funny little references like that in the show. I had noted that down, too (but deferred it until the next episode *hehe*).
      Re. “trust me I’m smiling” – I actually noted down that it is really clear from his voice that he is NOT smiling, and that it was strange that Reba just took it like that. Surely, being blind, she relies on her sense of hearing a bit more than sighted people, and would’ve noticed this herself…
      Reba dislikes pity – but pities Francis herself. That is a really interesting observation! Hadn’t occurred to me before, but you are right, she certainly leans that way, as you put it. Maybe she senses that for him that might be a sentiment that he has rarely experienced, hence he would accept it from her? Or maybe it is different because she considers the two of them on an equal footing in terms of a disability?

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  7. Reading the comments this time as I don’t have time to contribute myself. Lots of points I failed to notice. Thanks everyone. I really should watch again properly with all this in mind.

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  8. Comme vous j’aurais aimé plus de développement sur son personnage. Un détail par exemple est la présence non expliquée des bouchons dans ses oreilles, dans une des scènes du grenier. Ou encore la scène avec les rouleaux de film autour de son crâne…

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    • Yesterday, I wanted to found the recent French edition of that book: https://paullynchwriter.com/grace/ .
      But then, I found a comment on Thomas Harris book: “Red Dragon”.
      “C’était une reproduction d’une aquarelle de William blake, Le Grand Dragon Rouge et la Femme vêtue de soleil. Cette peinture l’avait bouleversé dès qu’il l’avait vue. Avant cela, il n’avait jamais rien vu qui fût aussi proche de sa pensée graphique. Il avait la sensation que Blake avait regardé par le trou de son oreille et vu le Dragon Rouge. Pendant des semaines, Dolarhyde avait craint que ses pensées ne sortent de ses oreilles pour se matérialiser dans la chambre noire et rendre les films flous. Il avait mis des tampons de coton dans ses oreilles. Puis, craignant que le coton ne fût inflammable, il avait essayé la laine d’acier. Et il s’était fait saigner les oreilles. En fin de compte, il avait découpé de petits morceaux de toile d’amiante dans un revêtement de table à repasser et en avait fait de petites boules qui obstruaient parfaitement ses conduits auditifs”.
      I think now that reading this book is necessary to understand the series.
      Can someone help me to choose?

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      • Well, I kind of agree, Squirrel – I read the book and I thought it was quite useful when I saw the show. But then again, that usually only manifests in details. Such as the corks in his ears (as you described above) or the forthcoming scene of the pearls and teeth in close-up.
        What choice would you like help with? The choice between ‘Grace’ and Thomas Harris. Hm, in that case I would say ‘Grace’ – original writing, up to date. The Harris book is actually a bit old-fashioned when you read it. You can tell it is from the 1980s (?).

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    • Good point – such unexplained details are usually an indication that there was more, but the footage was cut from the final edit. In any case, the corks in Francis’ ears make sense even if unexplained – I’d say he is trying to drown out the noise of the dragon. The whole film chaos in my opinion is just an aesthetic choice, overemphasising the anger with which Francis reacts to his “bad performance” on the film.

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  9. The second part of the Red Dragon story displayed several well-acted scenes.
    Absolutely scary: the shot of his profile (the large screenshot from above) with the snake-like eyes, the bent posture and the bared teeth. Eventually, these are looking like Grandma’s dentures, but a bit later when he discovers his tail you see his own teeth. (IMO the dragon’s tail was superfluous -even grotesque- to me, I got the transformation or the becoming, respectively, without that…)
    Very well done was the first encounter with Reba. His manners are childish and brusque, one understands he is not experienced in social encounters. He tries a bit small talk but fails. And I think Reba pities him for that and therefore develops sympathy (for the devil…). I was very tensed the first time I’ve watched and expected a bad ending for the poor girl, when Francis gave her a lift home. I am pretty sure Francis was not sure what to do with this woman and was afraid to lose control. Therefore he wolfed down the pie. Then he relaxes a bit in her presence but freezes again at her (rather plump) remark about his speech impediment. And his uncomfort still increases when Reba tries to touch his face. I don’t think she is particularly sensitive. She must be aware he is ashamed of his look and touching someone at the first encounter is even for a blind person a bit unusual, I guess.
    The masterful and gruesome “Trust me, I’m smiling” with the false smile and the grabbing of her hand should have frighten her but she doesn’t recognize the danger or ignores it.
    On the other hand it’s probably her boldness which saves her. Like Hannibal, she is eloquent and self-conscious and therefore attractive for Francis who craves for these personal qualities.
    Again, a lot of superb acting!

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