Nietchze famously declared God to be dead. The past few decades has invested in an immoral monster called Hannibal Lecter as a sort of perverted deity for the 21st Century and the new millennium.
In the three movies (one remake), Hannibal Lecter is portrayed as an old testament avenging dark angel brilliantly brought to life on the screen by Sir Anthony Hopkins in Silence Of The Lambs, which won Oscars gallore. Subsequent efforts had mixed results.
And so to Hannibal Rising, the prequel to the other Lecter movies â€” it asks the question what makes Hannibal, Hannibal?
Despite the fact that there is no Sir Anthony, director Peter Webber adapts Thomas Harrisâ€™ book with incredible style and if itâ€™s not good enough for you, itâ€™s because you are thinking Hopkins.
Says critic Brian Marder, â€œEven as a youngster he had a keen interest in (eating) human anatomy, but as we see in Hannibal Rising, he wasnâ€™t born a cannibal. It all started in World War II Lithuania, where a young Hannibal is left an orphan after he watches his whole family die at the hands of war criminals. In the eight years that pass, only the hope of revenge has kept him afloat. After escaping the orphanage at which he was bullied, Hannibal finds his uncleâ€™s Japanese widow, Lady Murasaki (Gong Li), who lives in a similarly lonesome state. They strike up a very close bond in which she helps him tap into the memory of his familyâ€™s death â€” most importantly, and painfully, his young sisterâ€™s. Hot on Hannibalâ€™s vengeful murderous trail is a French inspector (Dominic West), who both sympathises with and greatly fears the madman-child Lecter. And given that Anthony Hopkins has thrice played a grown-up Hannibal, and Brian Cox once, everyone should know how this prequel ends.â€
Why do we study? Is it to learn or is it to go on to college and better life? The History Boys examines this using two very different teachers to exemplify the different schools of thought.
Says Tom Dawson, â€œAt a grammar school in the north of England in the â€˜80s, eight pupils are preparing for their post-A-Level Oxbridge entrance exam. The eccentric, poetry-loving Hector (Richard Griffiths) is their favourite teacher, but the ruthless, results-oriented techniques of new colleague Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore) seem more likely to help The History Boys impress their examiners...
Reuniting the writer (Bennett), director (Hytner) and cast of the theatrical original, The History Boys is primarily a film of interiors, with the dramatic focus on classroom interactions between teachers and students. Crammed with pithy one-liners (a grope is described by Hector as â€˜more appreciative than investigatoryâ€™), references to and quotations from the likes of Housman, Auden and Larkin, the script explores the purpose and value of education, by contrasting two very different approaches to teaching. On the one hand, thereâ€™s the old-fashioned humanist Hector, an advocate of learning for learningâ€™s sake, not as preparation for passing tests. On the other, thereâ€™s moral relativist Irwin, encouraging his charges to turn questions on their heads and find new â€˜anglesâ€™, all to stand out from other candidates.
The History Boys is at its most moving in the quieter, more reflective moments, such as Hectorâ€™s heartfelt analysis of Hardyâ€™s poem Drummer Hodge to the shy Posner (Samuel Barnett). Or when Irwin admits to Hector his attraction to one of the boys and his colleague explains how over the years he has become inured to such unrequited feelings. Which of the scholars gets into Oxbridge seems far less important than our awareness of lives diminished by suppressed desires.â€