Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Hannibal

Go To

Hannibal is the 1999 sequel to the bestselling Thomas Harris novel The Silence of the Lambs, and the third novel in the Hannibal Lecter series. A movie adaptation, directed by Ridley Scott, came out in 2001.

Seven years have passed since Hannibal Lecter's escape from custody. Clarice Starling is now a fully-fledged FBI agent, but a bungled drugs raid leads to her being suspended. Meanwhile, Lecter is living in Florence, pursued by Starling, a wealthy former victim, and a disgraced Italian police detective - in different ways for different reasons.

The movie, with a different ending, saw Anthony Hopkins reprise his role as Lecter and also starred Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman and Ray Liotta.

The flashbacks from Hannibal involving the Verger twins were later incorporated into the second season of Bryan Fuller's TV series of the same name, with Michael Pittnote  and Katharine Isabelle as Mason and Margot. The novel's primary story of Lecter on the run (with modifications) influenced the first half of the show's third season. Pazzi was played by Fortunato Cerlino and Will Graham, as well as Chiyoh (a character from Hannibal Rising) and Bedelia Du Maurier (a Canon Foreigner unique to the series), were incorporated into the story.

Hannibal provides examples of:

  • Animal Motifs: Pazzi washes the pickpocket's blood off his hands in the Porcellino fountain, which is bronze boar. The very next scene reveals Verger's intention to have Lecter Fed to Pigs.
  • Antagonist Title: Hannibal. The protagonist, once again, is Clarice Starling.
  • Asshole Victim: Mason Verger was this, even though he didn't actually die at least not then and just wound up crippled.
  • Batman Gambit: Verger employs one after the Italy fiasco to flush Lecter out of hiding. With Krendler's assistance, Mason frames Clarice for 'withholding' communications from Lecter from the Bureau (and in the case of the book, for a fake warning). Verger knows that Lecter's fascinated with Starling and has been keeping tabs on her while in 'exile'. He correctly anticipates that the ensuing implosion of Clarice's personal and professional lives will tempt Lecter to return to the United States (where his people are keeping Starling surveilled and they can grab him when he inevitably makes his move). In both cases, it works.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: Lecter arms himself with a spring-mounted concealed blade known as a Harpy.
  • Body-Count Competition: Clarice receives a letter from the Guinness Book of Records congratulating her on being the female FBI agent who has shot and killed the most people.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Cordell, frequently abused by his employer, needs minimal prompting from Hannibal to shove Mason into the pig pit.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Verger's men actually capture Lecter and could have killed him at any moment, but Verger's determination to give him a Cruel and Unusual Death eventually leads to Lecter escaping.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Clarice's handcuffs.
    • The floor polisher.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Mason Verger, while not named, was alluded to in Red Dragon as one of Lecter's two surviving victims, being described as being on a respirator in Baltimore. In this novel, he goes from being an unseen throwaway character to the main antagonist.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal has sketched a view of Florence from the roof of the Duomo as part of his Wicked Cultured personality. One of the first establishing shots in Hannibal is that exact vista in real life.
    • During the dinner scene with Krendler, Bach's Goldberg Variations is playing, the same piece Lecter was listening to when he killed his two guards in Tennessee and escaped.
  • Crapsack World: Corruption is a major theme of the story, particularly in the novel. Clarice's ideals get her absolutely crucified by Washington politics in several ways, most notably at the hands of Paul Krendler who takes every opportunity to poison her career and ensure that despite her qualifications and achievements she is never permitted to work under Jack Crawford like she dreamed. It gets even worse when Krendler is bought by Mason Verger, who uses his immense wealth and political power to basically do whatever he wants to anyone he wants, and on a whim he is able to both save and destroy Clarice's career at different points in the story. It's the kind of world where the strange, twisted principles of Hannibal Lecter actually make sense.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Perhaps the worst in the history of the written word. Lecter captures Clarice and Krendler, drugs and hypnotizes Clarice, then cuts the top off of Krendler's head and cooks his brain for him and Clarice to eat. To be more specific; Krendler is not drugged - as the brain has no nerves, Hannibal is not only able to saw open Krendler's skull without killing him, but Krendler at first thinks that he just had a Tap on the Head, only for Hannibal to nonchalantly lift the top of his skull off and start slicing away like a deranged Japanese steakhouse chef. And Clarice has gone through a Humiliation Conga at Krendler's hands, so all it takes is some designer drugs and a little hypnosis for her to join Hannibal in feasting on her Bad Boss. Krendler's slow deterioration into random babble as Hannibal and Clarice feast on every last morsel of his frontal lobes is the most triumphant example of Cruel and Unusual Death.
    • Mason Verger's death, whether it be in the book or the movie, may not be as sadistic as Krendler's, but either way is still a nasty way to go.
  • Decoy Damsel: Inverted. Mason Verger decides that the best way to draw Lecter out of hiding is to put Starling in jeopardy. "When the fox hears the rabbit scream, he comes a-running... but not to help."
  • Dirty Cop:
    • Rinaldo Pazzi is a disgraced Italian detective who partners with Verger's henchmen to capture Lecter, eager to collect a $3 million bounty.
    • Paul Krendler, who is bribed by Verger to have Starling suspended from the FBI.
    • A Maryland Sheriff's deputy who has "long [been] a creature of the Vergers" is hired to watchdog Lecter's execution at Mason's estate.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Mason Verger's death:
    • In the book Margot Verger takes very messy revenge on her brother Mason, who had sexually abused her when she was younger, and manages to make sure that her family will have access to the family's fortune by getting his sperm so she can impregnate her girlfriend with a blood-related heir.
    • In the movie it is his doctor Cordell Doemling, who throws Verger to the pigs, when Hannibal points out that Cordell could just blame the murder on him.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Mason retains a gang of Sardinians to breed the special wild boars intended to devour Lecter alive, and to kidnap him once he is located. According to Harris, the Sardinians are some of the most experienced and professional kidnappers in the world, and the Italian police prefer dealing with them over other kidnappers, since they can be relied upon not to kill their victims by accident or in a sudden panic, and (if the ransom is paid) to return the victim alive and unharmed. Of course, the flip side is that if the ransom isn't paid, "the Sards" will not hesitate to return the victim to the family - one small piece at a time.
  • Evil Cripple: Mason Verger is a cripple but still manages to be a horrible person.
  • Evil Gloating: Mason Verger does this to Hannibal, in the form of To the Pain. He caps his speech with "I bet you wish you'd fed the rest of me to the dogs." Hannibal delivers a Shut Up, Hannibal! (ironic, that) that makes Mason leave the room.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: Verger actions resulted in having his face cut off.
  • Evil Will Fail: Posing as "Doctor Fell", Hannibal insults Inspector Pazzi, the Italian detective investigating a missing scholar (who Lecter almost certainly killed to get the scholar's job) for his failings on the "Il Mostro" case. Lecter claims he had been following the case in the papers, which is the first thing that arouses Pazzi's suspicions (that "Fell" had been following a Serial Killer case so closely), and along with a later remark to Clarice about "coming out of retirement" suggests he sabotaged his own freedom, as well as a new career. It is strongly implied that he is, in fact, the Il Mostro killer himself. note 
  • Extra Digits: Hannibal has six fingers on his left hand, as a metaphor for "being a monster".
    • In the novels, at least. This subplot was abandoned in the film adaptations(mainly as the special effects would have been expensive). This leads to an important plot divergence early on with an x-ray of Lecter's arm- in the book Lecter had his extra digit removed, with a smuggled x-ray from the surgery compared to a prior one from the asylum to compare the rest of the bone structure. In the film a recent x-ray from a broken arm incident is compared to one from the asylum for similar reasons.
  • Eye Scream: Hannibal gets an electric cattle prod jabbed into his eye after taunting one of Verger's thugs.
  • Facial Horror: Mason Verger peeled off his own face under the influence of Lecter, plus some party drugs. Seen in the movie Here.
  • Family Theme Naming: All the named Vergers have names beginning with "M," Mason, his sister Margot, and their father Molson.
  • Famous Ancestor: Pazzi is a descendent of the Pazzis, a noble Florentine family in the Middle Ages who unsuccessfully tried to overthrow the ruling de Medicis in 1478. Lecter mentions Francesco de Pazzi, who was hanged from a window in the aftermath, which also foreshadows Pazzi's own fate.
  • FBI Agent: Starling is now a fully trained FBI Agent.
  • Flashed-Badge Hijack: Averted when Clarice Starling witnesses Hannibal Lecter being kidnapped by Mason Verger's thugs and is unable to get a couple driving a car to even call for help. She spends the next few hours silently cursing herself for not throwing them out of the car and chasing the kidnappers herself.
  • Forced Orgasm: After Dr. Lecter is captured by Mason Verger, Mason's sister Margot tells Lecter she's helping her brother in the vain hope that he'll donate sperm to impregnate her female partner, so that Margot's family will inherit the Verger fortune. Lecter nonchalantly tells her that one can obtain sperm by stimulating a male's prostate with a cattle prod... and also that he would gladly claim responsibility if Mason were to be murdered. She takes advantage of his advice.
  • Foreshadowing: Lecter gives a lecture with Pazzi in attendance in which he mentions a depiction of Judas Iscariot hanging by the neck with his bowels out. This is the fate that awaits Pazzi.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The Verger family: Mason is choleric, Margot is phlegmatic, Molson is melancholic.
  • Give Me Back My Wallet: Dr. Lecter murders the guy who tries to pickpocket him. Though he was also partially murdered by Commendatore Pazzi, the Dirty Cop who had hired the pickpocket in the first place to get fingerprints, who intentionally lets him bleed to death so as not to blow his own cover.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: Lecter gives Clarice an evening gown for her to wear after he nurses her back to health.
  • Grand Finale: As the next novel Hannibal Rising was a prequel, this is the final chronological installment of the series.
  • Happy Ending Override: The previous novel ended with Clarice at peace, with a new love affair and her career trajectory tied to a comet. Here, she's restless and unattached with a plateaued and crumbling career—though the public reveal of the conspiracy between Verger and Krendler could possibly result in her vindication though.
  • Hidden Wire: Clarice Starling mentions during her shooting inquest that a man from another agency is wearing a wire. A FBI man threatens to punch him out if he tries that again.
  • Ironic Hell: The punishment Verger has planned for Hannibal is doubly so. On the one hand, he's a cannibal who would be eaten alive, and on the other, Hannibal previously punished Verger by making him cut his own face off and feeding it to dogs.
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: Verger reflects that he thought this when he was slicing his own face up at Lecter's instigation.
  • Japanese Tourist: Seen briefly in an establishing scene and are there to take pictures when Inspector Pazzi is murdered.
  • Jerkass: Verger and Krendler.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: the FBI/ATF's joint drug bust of Evelda Drumgo's meth lab is joined at the last moment by D.C. Metro Police Detective Bolton, since D.C.'s mayor wants to show how tough he is on drugs, after being convicted of possession of cocaine. The FBI and ATF teams (headed by Starling and her old Academy mentor, John Brigham), merge together seamlessly, while Bolton ends up blowing the whole operation and causing the shootout that kills Brigham and several other agents.
  • Just Desserts: At the climax of Hannibal, the boars that Mason hoped would eat Hannibal put him on their menu instead.
  • Karma Houdini: Lecter is this in spades, though Thomas Harris admitted he had grown to like his character so much this trope became inevitable. In the Hannibal novel Lecter even finally settles down with Starling following the events of the novel.
  • Lobotomy: The act of cutting open Krendler's head and serving him his own brain to eat qualifies as this, with similar results.
  • Memory Palace: Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a master of a vast memory palace, portrayed as an elegant mansion. It's mentioned that he would spend years inside it while incarcerated in an insane asylum. When Clarice becomes his lover Hannibal teaches her the technique, and discovers several of his rooms overlap with hers.
  • Mood Whiplash: After Lecter returns to the U.S., a scene shows him in a dignified, high-end shop buying silver, fine china and other expensive baubles, seemingly preparing for a fab dinner party. The next scene shows him going to a hosptal morgue, locking the attendant in the cold chamber and stealing autopsy tools. The viewer is left to ponder what his plans might be for those.
  • Mugging the Monster: Pazzi compels a pickpocket to mug Lecter, in order to acquire a fingerprint.
  • More than Mind Control: Hannibal kidnaps, drugs and hypnotizes a disillusioned Clarice and acts as her therapist. Clarice undergoes a major Face–Heel Turn, and when the drugs wear off, Clarice seduces him.
  • Near-Miss Groin Attack: A non-comedic example. Hannibal stabs a thief, aiming for the groin. However, the thief managed to dodge... so the blow lands in the complicated mass of arteries feeding the groin. He dies.
  • Noodle Implements: Lecter fashions a device with which to hang and disembowel Pazzi out of a floor polisher, its power cable and some duct tape.
  • Once for Yes, Twice for No: Lecter does this when he questions the bound and gagged Pazzi.
  • Painless Death for a Price: When Hannibal Lecter faces the gruesome fate of being fed to Mason Verger's pigs, Mason's twisted assistant Cordell offers to give him a serum that will grant a quick heart attack, in exchange for whatever money Lecter has stashed away. The good doctor responds by luring Cordell close with a promise of a Swiss bank account number... then snaps a bite out of his eyebrow.
  • Red Herring: In the book, we learn quite a bit about Il Mostro and the clues clearly point in one direction: The murders happened in one of Lecter's favorite cities, the bodies were specially arranged based on a classic work of art and there was a gap in murders of eight years, the length of time Hannibal was incarcerated. It immediately becomes obvious that Il Mostro was how Hannibal spent his vacations and that Pazzi, who hunts both killers, would piece it together. Well, not only does Pazzi never suspect a connection, Hannibal himself reveals he has no interest in the case and that aside from his predecessor he hasn't killed anyone since returning to Florence.
  • Reminiscing About Your Victims: Mason Verger reminisces about a Christian camp he attended and his fellow campers, some of them disadvantaged youths who "would do anything for a candy bar" which allowed him to molest them. This is meant to mark him out as an Asshole Victim of Hannibal Lecter's and later of his sister Margot's.
  • Repressed Memories:
    • In Hannibal Lecter's "memory palace", there is a locked cellar that is hardly ever opened - containing the memories of how his younger sister was murdered during World War II; if that cellar is ever unlocked, which sometimes happens in dreams, even Lecter wakes up screaming;
    • Paul Krendler tells Starling that his antipathy towards her has nothing to do with her turning down his sexual advances, and in a way he is telling the truth; the real reason is something he can't even admit to himself, that she bears a passing physical resemblance to a girl who called him a "queer" in the back of a car while he was still in high school;
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • Before the opening drug bust, Starling curtly tells D.C. Metro Detective Bolton that his department has no interest in the case, and the only reason he's there at all is so the mayor can appear tough on drugs after his own cocaine conviction. D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was arrested and convicted of cocaine possession in 1990, and chose not to run for reelection that year, though he was reelected and was in office in 1999, when the novel was published.
    • The FBI's most wanted list includes Osama bin Laden, James Charles Kopp and James J. Bulger.note 
    • Pazzi is said to have worked on the case of Il Mostro, a Real Life Serial Killer active in Florence in the 1970s and 1980s.
    • The backstory of antagonist Mason Verger is based not-so-loosely on the purported self-mutilation of a man under the influence of PCP who sliced off bits of his face and fed them to his dogs. The sole evidence for this event seems to come from an annotated photograph in the book Practical Homicide Investigation by Vernon J. Geberth. Warning: the photograph in question is exceptionally graphic and disturbing. If you still want to view it (don't say we didn't warn you), you can access the image here.
  • Roguish Romani: Romula is a Gypsy pickpocket.
  • Scenery Porn: Well it is Florence.
  • Stalker with a Test Tube: Margot only sticks around because she needs Mason's sperm to impregnate her partner (as Margot was disinherited by her father when he discovered she was a lesbian, the family fortune will pass to Mason's heirs only). She eventually gets what she wants, with the aid of a cattle prod.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Pazzi himself considers that being a cop, he could just arrest "Dr Fell" and quickly determine whether he really is Lecter. But his greed for Mason Verger's $3 million ransom gets the better of him, and he decides against this.
  • The Stinger: After the credits, Lecter’s signature rolls onscreen, and Hannibal says, ‘Ta-ta. H.’
  • Tasty Tears: Mason Verger makes children cry and uses their tears to flavor his Martinis.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Or greedy. Despite everything he reads about Hannibal Lecter and Starling calling him and warning him, Pazzi persists in his efforts to capture him. Even after he has positively identified Lecter to Mason Verger's people and is advised that in order to claim his reward he only has to point Lecter out to the waiting kidnappers, he insists on staying involved. Sure enough. . .
  • Touch of the Monster: After Clarice passes out from the gunshot wound in her shoulder, Lecter carries her bridal-style to safety (well, safer than a pen full of flesh-eating pigs, anyway).
  • Trust Me, I'm a Doctor: Inverted in when Lecter is talking to Margot about killing Mason; she quickly points out that she could never trust him to do it, and he counters by saying that she can trust him to not deny he'd done it. Margot ends up killing Mason Verger himself, and Lecter claims credit knowing no-one will question this.
  • Turn in Your Badge: A subversion. Clarice is suspended after the botched drugs raid, despite following procedures correctly, because the Bureau wants a scapegoat. She's later framed by Krendler (who's being paid by Verger) when she gets too close to tracking down Lector.
  • Undressing the Unconscious: Clarice is rendered unconscious by a gunshot wound and wakes up wearing an evening gown instead of the casual clothes she was wearing earlier. Which never happened in the book — although Clarice does end up wearing the evening gown, she's allowed to put it on without Lecter being in the room. Nor does Lecter ever undress her, except to tend her injuries.
  • Villain Ball: Lecter's genius and financial resources could ensure he will never be captured again. However, he repeatedly exposes himself to capture by drawing attention to himself, and it nearly gets him killed. According to Clarice, this character flaw is what got him captured the first time, building on Jack Crawford's previous assessment that his need to prove his vast intellectual superiority is his one true weakness.
  • Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: While he is being secured to a rack, Hannibal Lecter casually informs his captor, "your little brother must smell worse than you do by now; he shit when I cut him."
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: The Silence of the Lambs took place in 1983 (Lecter was captured by Will Graham in 1975 and has been locked up for eight years when the previous novel takes place), Hannibal is mentioned to take place seven years later, which would place it in 1990. However, reference is made to the Waco siege, which took place in 1993.

Alternative Title(s): Hannibal 1999