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Hannibal Rising (Unrated Widescreen Edition)
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In the most chilling chapter in the life of Hannibal Lecter, find the answer to the most elusive question of all -- why? Reaching back to explore the origins of Lecter's rage, terror and savagery, the story begins in Eastern Europe at the end of World War II when a young Hannibal watches the violent death of his parents -- a horrific moment that changes him forever. Showing a cunning aptitude for science, he hones his skills to exact justice on those that hurt his family, igniting an insatiable lust within a serial killer who was not born, but made.
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Another is what occurred with this film. Rumor on the street is Dino De Laurentis, the producer heavily involved with the last three films in the Lecter "franchise" coerced the novel series author, Thomas Harris, to write a fourth prequel novel, and then do the screenplay for this film (or De Laurentis would find someone else to do it). I have no idea whether that's true or not, but have little doubt a good portion of the thrashing this film has suffered at the hands (pens) of critics has more to do with that than the merits of the film itself.
Overview of Lithuania, 1918-1953 (skip this if you know the history):
The country was steamrollered by invading armies three times during WWII, first by the Soviets (1940), then by the Germans (1941), and finally by the Soviets again (1944; they didn't leave until 1993). It's a Nordic-Baltic country on the eastern side of the Baltic sea, across from Sweden and Denmark. During the rise of the Russian Empire, it was sucked by the end of the 18th Century along with Estonia, Latvia and Finland, the first two being the other smaller countries along the Baltic. Look at maps of the former Russian Empire and the former Soviet Union. The massive country was nearly landlocked. A major part of their strategic importance was an outlet to the Baltic. At the end of WWI in 1918 with the Russian revolution, Lithuania successfully declared its independence from Russia and was able to maintain it. This continued until 1939 with the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that partitioned Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union. Part of that deal that isn't widely known was the Soviet Union being allowed to occupy Lithuania without German intervention. The Soviet Union invades Lithuania in 1940 and annexes it, brutally wreaking havoc on Lithuanians to properly collectivize and "Sovietize" them. A year later in June 1941, Germany launches Operation Barbarossa, their invasion of the Soviet Union, which includes invading and occupying what had been Lithuania a year earlier. They proceed to wreak havoc on the civil population, especially the Jews and anyone suspected of having been a Soviet "collaborator." In 1944, Germany retreats from the Baltic and the Soviet Union invades again, only to wreak havoc once more with revenge on anyone remotely suspected of collaborating or even sympathizing with the Germans. After the war, Lithuania remained part of the Soviet Union, sold down the river by Churchill and Roosevelt by pointedly failing to address the three Baltic states (Estonia and Latvia the other two) in the Yalta Conference. Large numbers of highly organized partisans with uniforms, insignia and formal rank/command structure continued to pursue an effective revolt against Soviet occupation until about 1953 when resistance finally fell apart, although it continued in very small numbers into the 1960's. The historical aspect of the film's Lithuanian setting in WWII is sufficiently accurate; it isn't about the war per se, but about what the rogue German armed Lithuanian partisans did as the Soviets reoccupied the country in 1944.
The film uses WWII and what occurred in Lithuania to provide the backdrop and horrific events with the rest of his immediate family (mother, father and younger sister) that set Hannibal Lecter on his psychopathic trajectory as a serial killer. We get to see him as a young boy during WWII that ultimately travels from Lithuania through Eastern Europe, through West Germany and ultimately to the widow of his uncle in France. Initially he cannot consciously remember what occurred at the family lodge in Lithuania. While in France under the care of his aunt, he begins medical school and eventually is able to consciously remember the events that killed his family, setting him on a course of revenge that continues to the end of the film. There is a time gap between this film and Red Dragon, but it's not difficult to fill it with the list of serial killings in the ongoing investigation revealed at the beginning of Red Dragon. Knowing more than that wouldn't be of much benefit to Hannibal Rising as it already provides more than enough to fully understand the root cause of Lecter's psychopathy. There's plenty of material for empathy with Lecter, if one chooses to feel it. There are also plenty of horrifically abhorrent acts to revile. That's where I believe the strength of this film lies: a character whose childhood experiences and desire for revenge can evoke strong empathy combined with his revoltingly repulsive acts of revenge.
Obviously anyone playing the character is going to be measured against Anthony Hopkins' iconic portrayal. I think Gaspard Ulliel did a good job with the character at this point in the story. You can tell he tried to mirror some of what Hopkins did, but he also played him different than the adult version. In my opinion it is not as good as Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal or even Red Dragon, but if you look at it as its own story and accept someone else in the role than it is enjoyable.
As far as extras goes, there are a couple trailers, some deleted scenes a commentary track, and a 16 min making of featurette. About what you would expect for this kind of movie. In all, I think it is a good addition to the story. Not as good as the Hopkins films, but definitely worth adding to your collection.
In the beginning of the flick Hannibal's parents leave their castle and go into hiding due to the war and the invasion of the Germans. They are killed and Hannibal attempts to take care of himself and his little sister who are now alone. Some brutes take over the house and they are all starving to death. Eventually they decide to kill and eat the sister; justifying their action by the sister being sick and would die anyway. Hannibal's insanity is introduced. I don't recall how he got away for the cannibals, but some Americans soldiers find him walking in the snow close to death. He grows up in an orphanage which is actually his family's old estate. There is a hierarchy in which the older orphans take advantage of the younger, but Hannibal is defiant until he runs away. Travel.... Travel.... Travel.... He makes it to an uncle's house
His step aunt is Asian her husband, Hannibal biological uncle has died, but she invites this relative by marriage to move in; a guy that shows up from nowhere with a picture. Young Hannibal falls in love/lust, whatever, for his step Auntie who I think worshipped her ancestors, and I think she falls in love with him too. The entire story line was very weird. This takes place after WWII, so I may not be able to relate to the times, culture or customs. Where I am from we don't invite strangers in to live without a living soul to vouch for the person.
One day the two go to the market and the butcher is beyond rude, completely vulgar to the Hannibal's step Auntie; no one says anything to this guy about his nasty comment to a lady; again maybe I do not have an understanding of the era. If I recall Hannibal causes a bit of stir. Eventually, Hannibal kills the guy and the Auntie who has taught Hannibal about revenge covers for him, although she is mortified by his actions.
Hannibal goes off to school, but seeks revenge on the men that ate his sister. They are all despicable, loathsome creatures, but have become respectable despicable, loathsome creatures and pimps; a pimp is a pimp in any kind of suite. I don't want to ruin the move, but Hannibal does get his revenge and although we know he wins because of the other movies there are some moment where one can forget and wonder is they will get him or if he will get them. Overall, even with the oddities I enjoyed the movie and would watch it again.
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I don't usually care for horror movies but this is not a normal horror show. It has a deep story with good actors