Hannibal: why I won't stop telling you about it.

I don't really tend to fangirl about many things, unless I feel they are particularly special. NBC's Hannibal is one of those very special things. We came in fairly late in the game, as this was something that I'd heard of, and had been meaning to watch, but was put aside for Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. In the space between other shows, I finally decided to try Hannibal, and boy, I'm so glad I did. 

The first two seasons (and likely the third) of Hannibal take place in an alternate universe before Red Dragon - which had only covered the story once Hannibal had been caught and in prison. In the show, Hannibal is working as a psychologist, long before Clarice Starling. In Red Dragon, Will Graham only meets Hannibal shortly before he catches him, as opposed to the long relationship the two have in the show. Although the majority of the storylines in the show are unique, they reconstruct Thomas Harris' tones extremely well, and some even have nods to the books (such as the introduction of the Vergers in season 2). Lines from the book are faithfully injected into the show ("It feels like I'm talking to his shadow, suspended on dust") without being jarring, only noticeable if you've read the books. 

After devouring the two seasons of the show so far, I stated reading the book series (I'm currently on the third book, Hannibal), which are well worth the read, especially if you like thrillers. But in this post I thought I'd ramble on about the many reasons why the show has really captured my imagination! 


Exquisite cinematography

Hannibal is quite literally a feast for the eyes. Not just the fastidiously constructed shots, although these are the ones that will etch themselves on your mind, but the entire show takes immense care with every scene. The colour palette is considerably well thought-out, from how a wall contrasts clothing, or how a shade of blue might reflect the turmoil of a character's mind. Symmetry is deployed in a similar vein to Kubrick (cited as one of the show's inspirations, along with David Lynch, both of which you can see clearly throughout).

One thing that sets Hannibal apart from it's ilk, is that the horror of death is offset with the most stunning tableau shots, much like a Vanitas painting. Macro and close up shots of the food being prepared by Hannibal is designed to be mouth-watering, shocking considering the implication of what the "meat" comprises of. By employing the skills of a food stylist, artist Janice Poon (she has a great blog here), these shots are able to stand alone as incredibly beautiful objets d'art.

It's also worth noting that the (wonderful) Hannibal fanbase includes a lot of absolutely beautiful fanart!


A male protagonist who is flawed and fragile. 

Think about how often you've seen a male protagonist who is depicted as damaged and doesn't overcome his flaws. Will Graham is treated, as noted by Hannibal in one of the first episodes, as a "delicate tea cup, only used for special guests". It's rare that a male character would need to rely so heavily on those around him, particularly women. His sexual advances are denied due to his fragility, and his whole persona seems a lot more realistic than many male leads (another male character that also goes against the norm is Walter White from Breaking Bad).

Another interesting note is that many of the female characters have been gender swapped from their counterparts in the books; Alana/Allen Bloom, Freddie/Freddy Lounds. The books themselves feature what I would consider, an extremely strong feminist character in the form of Clarice Starling, so it is refreshing that this has been considered in the show. 



As the audience we are well aware (it's also revealed to us in the first episode) that Hannibal is dangerous, and so it can only be a matter of time before the other characters gain this knowledge. The foreshadowing, mostly from Hannibal's own mouth ("You have to convince yourself the lion is not in the room" and "I'd love to have you both for dinner" comments) gives a playful hint as to what is to come. Re-watching the first season with the knowledge of how everything develops, especially Will and Hannibal's increasingly complicated relationship, is interesting. The use of metaphors are subtly used throughout the 2 seasons without being hammy, while the overarching story has obviously been constructed with meticulous care.



There isn't one bad performance in the entire show, even from actors I wouldn't normally consider to be top rate (such as Eddie Izzard, whose performance is a good homage to Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal). The majority of the actors were unfamiliar to me, or hadn't been in any large productions, but they stand alongside such great performers as Laurence Fishburne. Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy are incredibly strong as Hannibal and Will, with Mads portraying the cannibal as well as, dare I say better than, Anthony Hopkins.


Sound design

One of the more surreal aspects of the show, to compliment the visual style, is the sound design. There are many scenes in which dialogue is put aside; not guiding the audience along by pointing out the obvious, but allowing the audio space and often ominous soundtrack to do the work. The soundtrack is slightly different for each episode, for example, Season 1, Episode 2 has a bubbling, slightly nauseating sound for the mushroom killer, while Verdi and Mozart is used dramatically throughout Season 1, Episode 7. I remember in particular, the sound throughout season 2, when Will is at his most fragile, is extremely evocative. 



Oh my god the suits. Hannibal is well-known to enjoy the finer things in life, from wines to cars, so his wardrobe would definitely need to be a priority. And boy, does the wardrobe department follow through. 



The theme of mental illness. 

So often in media, mental illness is portrayed in a negative way, and phrases like "he's crazy" have entered our everyday lexicon. With the main theme on the show being psychology, in particular the psychology of the mentally ill, it would have been easy for a group of careless writers to treat mental illness as a monster. Without glorifying, Hannibal delves into the complex minds of fictional killers, via Will Graham's empathetic mind.

From the outset, Will's state of mind is put into question, with Crawford asking him where he falls on the Autism spectrum, to which he responds, "My horse is hitched to a post that is closer to Aspergers and Autistics". Will has particular trouble with social situations, an issue that many people struggle with. As his taxing tasks effect his already fragile mind, the audience is given a glimpse of what it may be like to suffer in such a way, allowing us a glimpse of how complex the human mind can be. Not only is Will's psychology laid out on the table, but some of the other characters are shown as flawed and, at times, unstable. One of the reasons why Freddie Lounds is such a distasteful character is that she encourages the view that Will Graham is "crazy" and therefore shouldn't be around Abigail Hobbs (evidentally she didn't notice the real monster in the room). As I said, this could have so easily fallen into the spectrum of media that encourages an unhealthy view of mental illness, but Bryan Fuller's team have created something special that deals with these themes in a mature and complex way. 


In short, I highly recommend giving Hannibal a watch, as it far surpasses many other television shows currently being aired. 

Have you watched Hannibal, if so, which aspects did you enjoy the most? 




One of the main reasons why I had considered Prague as a destination to visit (on further research, I realised there were so many more reasons!), is the Sedlac Ossuary.

Back in 2010 for my final project at University I created a triptych of photographs titled "VANITAS VANITATUM OMNIA VANITAS", inspired by the nature of photography as momento mori and the Vanitas paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries. As I was researching this, I came across the Sedlac Ossuary and mentally filed it away under "places I must go". Funnily enough, the majority of the sights I saw in Prague would have been very relevant to this project!  

“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” - Susan Sontag



 The ossuary is actually in Sedlec, an hour out of Prague by train, and we almost didn't go. Estimated to contain the remains of 40,000 to 70,000 people, the chapel was built in around 1400, but it's history began long before. In 1278 the cemetery became THE place to be buried, following the abbot of the monastery returning from the holy land of Golgotha with a small amount of earth, which was sprinkled on the site. Due to the Black Death and the Hussite Wars the cemetery had to be greatly enlarged. A church with a lower chapel was built as an ossuary to house the exhumed skeletons in order to make room for new burials.

After 1511 the gristly task of exhuming and stacking bones was given to a half-blind monk, although we don't know how it looked under his... err.. half-blind responsibility. It was only in 1870 when the grounds were under the control of the Schwarzenberg family that they hired a woodcarver (and evidently creative fellow) František Rint to rearrange the bones. The guy even signed his name in bones near the doorway!


It was certainly an interesting experience, and I understand the importance of tourism to keep such places in good condition.... however.... a big, big disappointment was the conduct of the many people that streamed in and out of the place in the hour or so that we were there. Despite being surrounded by the dead there was such a horrendous lack of respect from people of all ages and nationalities, including taking selfies in front of the skulls and posing in a "scary" way. Nobody was taking any care to speak in hushed tones, despite the signs for silence, and the fact that there was a small altar at the back of the room for prayer.

I knew that there would be tourists there, due to the season, but I felt like I would have preferred to wait for longer outside in order to go in in smaller groups of people, rather than a slightly chaotic till point herding people in after they'd bought their tacky key chains. 

The fact that people are now so unconnected to reality, even when there are REAL skeletons within their reach, is quite shocking. How you can be in that place and not only not reflect on mortality but to take selfies and joke around, is worrying. It's like the douche-bags at gigs who watch through their phone (or, god forbid AN iPAD), not enjoying the moment because they are too busy taking a photo to prove they had this really fun moment. If someone is constantly taking selfies (in order to remain relevant? constant? proof of living?), that person is likely to be unbalanced (and not in a quirky-cool way).


Regardless, this is still a constant source of inspiration to me, and I'm very honoured that I had the chance to visit!


The Death Mask of a saint lying in the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady (near to the ossuary)

Prague: Opulence & Religion


It feels like I was there for weeks, but it was only a couple of days! From thursday to Sunday last week my boyfriend, Mark Charade, and I celebrated out 5 year anniversary in Prague.

 This was our first holiday together which didn't involve work (although performing in Prague would be wonderful!), and we managed to pack in a lot of sight-seeing in such a small amount of time.

Prague is an incredibly beautiful city, even just to walk around. There are a lot of things you can see and do that don't require a hefty budget and the food is amazing for a decent price. The only downside I can possibly think of is that there were a lot of tourists, so I'd probably suggest going in September when it's not too cold but will be likely to be a little calmer.


We stayed in the wonderful Art Deco Imperial Hotel, which is about 10-15 minutes walk from the Old Town Square. 

I'd definitely recommend the hotel, not only were the staff friendly and helpful, the rooms were beautiful and the other areas of the hotel were stunning. We particularly liked the fact that this statue looked like she was in the middle of saying "FUCK THIS SHIT" and flipping tables.

We had a ridiculously early flight, which was slightly painful, but it actually mean't we had pretty much a full day on the thursday. We had a wander and went to the Jewish Museum and surrounding synagogues (as well as the Jewish Cemetery, which you can see in the very top right of this post).

The Spanish Synagogue, images can't even capture how detailed it was. Opulent religious buildings are one of my biggest inspirations, and Prague definitely had plenty of that, as you'll see below! The Spanish Synagogue, and the other synagogues that comprise the Jewish museum, had cabinets full of interesting pieces of Czech-Jewish history (it also turns out that I may have Czech-Jewish family on my mother side!). 

St. Nicolas Church in the Old Town Square. Really beautiful painted church that doesn't have an entrance fee or photo-fee. We came back here on the last day to a live music concert, which was incredibly calming.

On Friday we took a tram up to the Prague Castle. I'd read that the inside of the castle wasn't particularly interesting, compared to walking around the grounds/cathedral, so we didn't take a tour. The inside of St. Vitus Cathedral is absolutely beautiful, and although I didn't see it, there was also a stained glass window designed by Mucha.

Another one of the many churches I had wanted to see was the nearby church in Loreta. Although a fairly small and unassuming church from the outside, the inside was what I like to call Opulent As Fuck. 

It also had some incredibly creepy cherubs. Yes, that's a plate with breasts on. Yes, the bottom cherub does look like it's saying "FOR ME?!". On the opposite side was a cherub holding a bloody tooth and a set of pliers. This was extremely bizarre not in context; the two sets of cherubs are referring to St. Agatha (had her breasts cut off during torture) and St. Apollonia (who had her teeth shattered in torture). There were further paintings and beautiful artefacts in cabinets within the church grounds, referring to the Saints and other Catholic scenes.

I believe the bottom two images and top right are from Loreta Church, and the top left is another church we found while walking around. 

Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady at Sedlec (outside of Prague).


For as long as I've been taking photographs I've felt inspired by this kind of religious opulence. I particularly find the goriness of the tortured Saints (and of course the crucifixion) a stark and interesting contrast against the rich tones and glittering gold. The wealth and opulence presented is usually at odds with the majority of religious base religious concepts - the main figure in Christianity being Jesus, who shunned wealth. 

I plan to work this more into my artwork at some point very soon!