Hannibal by Thomas Harris

“Which do you think, Commendatore? Bowels in or out?”

Is the film better than the book? Is ‘The Silence of The Lambs’ better than ‘Hannibal’? These are two questions that compelled me to finally take the time to read the books that put Thomas Harris on the literary map.

It’s a little topsy-turvy that I’d begin with the third story in the series. To sum up the previous two: loved them. I couldn’t put them down and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Clarice was just as sassy on the pages as Jodie Foster portrayed her in the screen adaptation.

I had high hopes for ‘Hannibal’ but, unfortunately, was severely disappointed. Mason Verger’s plot to feed Hannibal to the pigs was dull, Margot Verger’s (who was completely omitted from the film) ploy to steal her brother’s sperm was bizarre, and Barney’s decision to live at Mason’s home was farfetched. In truth, there were many elements to the story that just didn’t fit.

There were, however, some redeeming components. Mason experiences sexual gratification from emotionally abusing children; something which is encouraged by Cordell (his right-hand man) who is a sex offender himself. There is a particular scene in which the audience learns that Mason is collecting the tears of children, which sheds a naked light on the mental stability of the beast hunting Hannibal Lecter. Margot, who has suffered psychological and sexual abuse at the hands of Mason throughout her life, kills her brother by stuffing a pet moray eel down his throat. Chilling and dark, yes, however ‘Hannibal’ would have faired better had it focused on the more gritty elements in the novel.

Did I like the ending? Yes, in a way. There was something twisted about Starling and Lecter embarking upon a romantic relationship. It definitely shocked the audience and it certainly made me feel a little uncomfortable. However, was it right for this story? No. If we take a look at Clarice’s character progression throughout both books, one thing is clear; she abides by the law and is entirely dedicated to her job as an FBI agent. She is thoroughly unaware of how attractive she is and dislikes the male attention she receives. So, the notion that she’d use her sexuality to seduce one of the most dangerous sociopaths at the time is absolutely ridiculous.

To put it simply: the ending of this book was a complete betrayal of Starling’s character.

If I were to answer the first two questions… 1. Yes, the film is better than the book because of Anthony Hopkins’ utter genius. 2. Yes, both the book and film version of ‘The Silence of The Lambs’ are better than ‘Hannibal’.

My advice: Stick with the first two books, avoid the third, and watch Anthony Hopkins own your TV screen instead.

Book Worm’s rating: 5/10 and some fava beans with a nice chianti 



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