Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hannibal - Analysis of the Movie - part 1: Introduction; reference to the Holy Trinity


[Image at left from the Wikipedia 'Hannibal (film)' page; "Hannibal movie poster",[a] licensed under fair use via Wikipedia.]

Welcome to the analysis of Hannibal. Buttons at the bottom of each post enable navigation through the parts of the analysis. Regarding the appearance of possible anti-Semitism on this blog, please see the 'Disclaimers' section near the bottom of this page.

Hannibal is a 2001 psychological horror film directed by Ridley Scott, adapted from the Thomas Harris novel of the same name. Its screenplay was written by Steven Zaillian and David Mamet. It starts Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, and Ray Liotta. Hannibal was the highly anticipated sequel to 1991's Academy Award-winning The Silence of the Lambs, which introduced Hannibal Lecter to mainstream movie-going audiences (though the character was first portrayed by Brian Cox in the 1986 film, Manhunter, based on Harris' novel, Red Dragon). The premise of Hannibal is that Hannibal Lecter's only surviving victim, the extremely wealthy Mason Verger, is determined to capture, torture, and kill him.[b]

In part of Hannibal, Hannibal Lecter, and inspector Pazzi and his wife, see an outdoor opera in Florence, Italy called Vide Cor Meum. This opera is based on the sonnet "A ciascun'alma presa", in chapter 3 of Dante Alighieri's La Vita Nuova.

Hannibal Lecter (who has taken on the name "Dr. Fell") converses with the Pazzis after the opera performance.

If we turn to chapter 3 of La Vita Nuova, we see that in it, Dante makes several mentions of the numbers 3 and 9 (the latter being equal to 3 x 3, that is, the root of 9 is 3). In the below, the material inside quotation marks is from the Musa translation of La Vita Nuova (emphasis not in original):[c]

  • At the opening of chapter 3, it has been nine years since Dante has seen his beloved Beatrice.
  • Beatrice appears to Dante at the "ninth hour of [the] day (3 o'clock in the afternoon)."
  • A vision later appears to Dante "in the fourth hour of the night; that is, it was without a doubt the first of the last nine hours of the night."
  • The second part of the sonnet begins, "The first three hours..."

Dante's uses of the numbers 3 and 9 in his sonnet, point to the concept of the Christian Holy Trinity, which is composed of three persons. Therefore, in Hannibal, the showing of an opera based on this sonnet is itself a reference to the Trinity. We will begin to look at the Holy Trinity in the next post.

a. Poster for Hannibal: The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, MGM / Universal, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist.
b. Wikipedia, 'Hannibal (film)'. Web, n.d. URL =
c. Dante Alighieri. La Vita Nuova. Trans. with introduction Mark Musa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. pp. 6-7, 86.

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