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