I’ve been watching the series “Hannibal” on Netflix recently. Here they depict the life of Hannibal Lecter before the events of “Silence of the Lambs” and “Hannibal” the film. In this series he is still a practising physician – a psychiatrist.
I was thinking about why he is such a fascinating character. Yes, he is a killer and a ruthless one to boot. But he had many – many – redeeming qualities. In many ways he is admirable – a cut above the average person. He is extremely smart. He knows the mind and the body inside out. Though he gave up surgery early in his career, he is a skilled surgeon. He is very cultured and learned. He has absorbed the best minds that humanity produced. He can quote the greats. He is a lover of the fine arts – classical music, ballet and painting. He is also a gourmet chef (what he cooks is another story – but even his cannibalism it is done with exquisite taste.) Perhaps his best quality is his ruthless honesty about himself and his proclivities. He never whitewashes his crimes. He doesn’t try to lie to himself or others about them. He is who he is and is true to himself.
Also this monster was capable of love. We see it in all the films. He is not as evil as we think.
Yet, it is precisely because of these admirable qualities that he is such a chilling figure. He is not someone you want to meet in a dark alley.
As I watched and ruminated about his strange fascination. I remembered a book that came out some years ago. It was called THE NAKED APE. It basically described the human being as an animal – a predator – with a cortex. A hairless ape. The brain is at the service of the lower instincts. This is Hannibal Lecter I thought. He is a prototype for modern man. Modern man has awesome powers and knowledge. (Collectively). Yet it is used, for the most part, to satisfy the instincts. And this is what makes him dangerous.
As I watched the series I couldn’t help feeling that with a slight shift of consciousness – a deeper investigation into the truths of life – Hannibal Lecter could have changed and been a light unto the world. Perhaps this will happen in a future sequel.
Hannibal Lecter is a Man unredeemed.