Thursday, August 25, 2011

Manhunter - Analysis of the Movie - part 1: Introduction; Will's similarity to the killer


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

Welcome to the analysis of Manhunter. Buttons at the bottom of each post enable navigation through the parts of the analysis. Posts in this analysis having to do with the hidden plot, such as this post, are marked with the words "[Hidden plot related]" under the post title; if you are only viewing the hidden plot explanation, you may skip over the other parts. You may want to view the table of contents.

Manhunter is a 1986 thriller film based on Thomas Harris's novel Red Dragon. Written and directed by Michael Mann, it features Brian Cox as the popular character Hannibal Lecter (although the character's name is spelled "Lecktor" in this film) and stars William Petersen, Joan Allen, Kim Greist, Dennis Farina and Tom Noonan.

Petersen plays Will Graham, a former FBI profiler who captured the infamous Dr. Hannibal Lecktor and was almost killed in the process; he is so traumatized by the event that he retires from the FBI. His former boss, Jack Crawford, calls him out of retirement to help find a killer called "The Tooth Fairy" who is murdering entire families. Crawford wants Graham on the case because Will has an uncanny ability to empathize with a killer. [b]

Above left: There is suggestion right from the beginning of the movie that Will is in some ways like the killer, the Tooth Fairy (Francis Dollarhyde). In an early scene in which Will and his wife, Molly, are in bed together, Will licks her neck several times (click image to enlarge). This is suggestive of what we later discover to be Dollarhyde's propensity for biting his female victims. Above right: A hard visual clue we are given of a likeness between Will and Dollarhyde is given in two scenes (taken together) which take place early in the movie: we notice that Graham follows the same path and sees the exact same physical objects on the steps leading to the Leeds family's bedrooms (as shown here), as did Dollarhyde when climbing these same steps in the scene before the movie title display. Since the Leeds family was one of Dollarhyde's victim families, the physical explanation for the two men's views being identical is that the crime scene has been preserved; but nevertheless, the fact that we, the Manhunter audience, are shown the two essentially identical scenes (Dollarhyde climbing the Leeds' stairs, and later, Graham climbing them), is to get across the idea that Graham is like the killer, in one or more respects.

a. Poster for Manhunter: The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist.
b. Wikipedia, 'Manhunter (film)'. Web, n.d. URL =


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