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Hannibal Rising
Poor little Hannibal Lecter
Hannibal Rising
A Scene from "Hannibal Rising".
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $7,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

September 8th, 2006: In 1944, in a war-ravaged Lithuania, a young Hannibal Lecter (Gaspard Ulliel) finds himself, his parents, and his sister Mischa driven out of their seemingly impenetrable castle by the Eastern Front. Although Hannibal survives, the rest of his family perishes. His parents are killed during battle and his sister is murdered by Nazi sympathizers. Once the horrific fighting comes to an end, a traumatized and penniless Lecter escapes to Paris, hoping to reunite with his uncle, who was actually killed during the war as well. His attractive Japanese widow, Lady Murasaki (Li Gong), offers her hospitality to the stray. With time, she is able to pass on some of her unique wisdom onto the boy, helping him become a sophisticated and cultured young man. A new fascination soon takes over Hannibal. A sick obsession with dead bodies allows him to grow into an exceptional physician, but it also proves to be a precursor to his sociopath tendencies. As Hannibal rehashes the horrors of the war inside his mind, the suffering his family endured continues to haunt him. Still holding on to the memory of his sister, he decides to avenge her death, even if it means hunting down those responsible one by one.

What to Expect: The film is based on Thomas Harris’ latest Hannibal Lecter novel titled Behind the Mask, but a more accurate description would probably be that the book is based on the movie. Harris was approached to write a screenplay for a film that would serve as a prequel to all of the previous four Lecter titles. As a result, Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask actually originated with a script that was penned by the author, who has since decided to turn it into his fourth novel about the elegant sociopath. Behind the Mask is likely to hit bookstores before the end of the year, while the film is currently scheduled for an early 2007 release date. Clearly, the newest entry into the series is very much a prequel as it goes all the way back to Hannibal Lecter’s childhood in order to reveal how the infamous literary figure became the terrifying killer.

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For those unfamiliar with the series, here is a brief summary. Michael Mann started things off when he crafted Manhunter in his own unique style and vision. The film was based on Harris’ first novel, Red Dragon, and starred Brian Cox as Lecter, but shifted a lot of the attention away from the character, who was about to become a legend by the next outing. Silence of the Lambs, directed by Jonathan Demme, featured an extraordinary performance by Anthony Hopkins, swept all the major awards at the Oscars, and eventually ended up on American Film Institute’s Top 100 Films of All Time list. Hopkins then returned as Lecter in the two outings that followed – Ridley Scott’s excessively gruesome take on the final entry in the series, Hannibal, and Brett Ratner’s worthy, but unspectacular remake, Red Dragon.

By taking on a brand new Hannibal story, director Peter Webber has pretty large shoes to fill. He still lacks experience as a filmmaker and is probably the least prolific of all the directors to take on the series. Outside of several made-for-television films, Webber has made only one full-length feature, but it was a surprisingly good one. His sumptuous period drama Girl with a Pearl Earring was very well received by critics and even earned a few Academy Award nominations, albeit mostly technical. Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask strikes me as a very odd follow-up for someone that seemed to be poised for a far more challenging career.

As the title suggests, the film is a prequel and will focus on Hannibal’s early life, from his childhood in Lithuania, to the teen years in Paris, and eventually to his arrival in America. It is also going to investigate the psychological impact that the events that occurred during the war had on him as a person. Lecter was born to considerable wealth, but lost everything, including his family, during the war. For some time he survived only with his younger sister Mischa, and the movie is likely to explore the strange bond the two shared following their parents’ death.


Reportedly, in the movie, his sister is killed by starving Lithuanian soldiers, who later eat her right in front of Hannibal. It goes without saying that the traumatizing event helps explain quite a bit about the character.


Hannibal’s stay in France will also be marked by a peculiar and possibly even romantic relationship with his uncle’s widow, Lady Murasaki. His fascination with human bodies will lead to him becoming a respected doctor and of course, it will ultimately shape him into the dangerous sociopath everyone knows.

Besides the visibly uninspired idea of a completely unnecessary fifth Hannibal Lecter film, even worse, a prequel, there are many more reasons to dread the arrival of Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask. Thomas Harris’ simultaneous work on the screenplay and novel feels like an exercise in mass-production in an effort to cash in on the character. Unless the film is an outrageous comedy (see Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy or Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby), it should probably avoid a colon in the title. Typically, a colon serves as an instant reminder that a movie is likely to be a shoddy, made-for-television drama. The film’s unabashedly sympathetic look at Lector is entirely disrespectful to the series that we’ve seen up to this point. Revelations about his childhood influences are yet another example of Hollywood’s inability to stay away from simplistic Fraudian explanations. As Anthony Hopkins illustrated so boldly and even more clearly, Lecter is likeable without having to rely on a sad back-story that completely trivializes his character. At all times, he should remain a powerful villain, while eerily charming his way through every scene. Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask will reduce an enigmatic figure into a sad and creepy little boy, completely imprisoned by the psychological profile bestowed upon him by the author. Having this much sympathy for Hannibal Lecter truly crosses the line. At one point, as many as four actors were being considered to play the boy at various stages in his life. That number has since been dwindled down to two, with Gaspard Ulliel getting the majority of the screen time. Which brings me to my next point: the film is flooded with a cast that is best described as obscure. A lot of the actors are Eastern European, which is a benefit if the filmmakers are going for realism and a problem if they are hoping to make money at the box-office. So the question is, who wants to see a rushed prequel that contains none of the actors from the previous, highly popular entries in the series?

In Conclusion: The film was shot in France, Prague, and Lithuania so the action should take place in some highly photogenic locations. Reports from early test screenings have indicated that the movie is sort of European in style. This implies that it is a character study rather than a typical horror gorefest. I suppose that’s good, but not when the main character should remain at least a slight mystery. By giving Hannibal reasons and motivations, the film could become a gross miscalculation. It truly lacks what the other features in the series have been able to do: Successfully keeping the viewers guessing about Lecter’s intentions. Furthermore, the storyline sounds like a revenge movie, without the inventiveness of a Kill Bill. This entire idea sounds worse than even Basic Instinct 2.

Similar Titles: Basic Instinct 2, Jaws: The Revenge, Scream 3
February 9th, 2007 (wide)
May 29th, 2007 (DVD)

MGM, The Weinstein Company LLC

Peter Webber

Gaspard Ulliel, Gong Li, Richard Brake, Brian Caspe, Lana Likic, Charles Maquignon, Aaron Thomas, Rhys Ifans, Dominic West, Kevin McKidd, Helena Lia Tachovska

Total: 111 vote(s).

Drama, Suspense

Click here to view site

Rated R for strong grisly violent content and some language/sexual references

117 min





Hannibal Rising at AskMen.com

Hannibal Rising at RottenTomatoes.com

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