"The Art and Making of Hannibal: The Television Series" Book Review
Written by R.J. MacReady
Published by Titan Books
Written by Jesse McLean
2015, 176 pages, Reference
Released on May 5th, 2015
Let me start out by saying that Hannibal is an amazing show. If you haven't seen it, then you don't realize that you're missing what is one of the most beautifully-produced television shows ever put on the TV screen. One glimpse of it and you'd swear it was an HBO show rather than one put on NBC.
But if you're thinking about picking up The Art and Making of Hannibal: The Television Series, I'll assume you're a fan of the show.
This is a handsome book, with a simple but expectedly food-festishistic cover of a heart on a plate, the blood leaking off in the shape of elk's horns, which is a recurring theme in the show. (And if the show has a weakness, it's the food preparation by Hannibal in every episode. Yes, we get it, he's a cannibal and that the food he's cooking is probably PEOPLE.)
The book starts off with a simple introduction by Martha De Laurentiis, wife of the late great producer Dino De Laurentiis, talking about how they acquired Red Dragon by Thomas Harris thirty years ago and why they decided to continue the Hannibal story even after Harris had finished telling his story. The author signed off on the series but did manage to say "Don't fuck it up."
Then we get some all-too-brief notes about Bryan Fuller and his involvement in the series. I hadn't realized, but it makes perfect sense in retrospect that Fuller is insanely hands-on with the series, involved in every script, even touching them up and adding dialogue the night before shoots. The series has the feel and consistency of one man's vision, no matter how many people are involved in the production of each episode. De Laurentiis mentions earlier what a massive Thomas Harris fan that Fuller is, having an encyclopedic memory about the books. It shows – yet Fuller manages to bring his own interesting visuals and sensibility to the show. (The swinging pendulum effect when Will Graham reimagines a crime scene is all Fuller's creation.)
Click images to enlarge.
Fascinating anecdotes abound in the book, from talk of how they get around the censors to show some of the grisliest images to ever grace network TV (Fuller gets the censors involved early, telling them what he'd like to do and asking how they think he should do it – and he notes that the brighter the blood, the more the censors will edit, so they do very dark blood), to in-depth discussions from frequent director David Slade (30 Days of Night), who notes that he and Fuller are huge fans of prosthetic effects. He cites John Carpenter's The Thing and Tobe Hooper's Salem's Lot as favorites.
The Art and Making of Hannibal is mostly sectioned into chapters dealing with the individual killers and their manner of murder in each episode, and my interest level fluctuated with how much I liked the murders in particular. Every couple of pages there's a break to examine a character and the actor who plays him or her. It ends with a short examination of the editing (where editor Stephen Philipson drops word that parts of the Violin murder had to be cut as they were too gory), as well as the music created for the show.
All in all the book is well designed, interesting, and absolutely a great addition to the bookshelf for the fans of the show.
I'd also encourage fans to head over to https://livingdeadguy.com/shows/hannibal to download the actual scripts for every show from season one, courtesy of Bryan Fuller himself. A few of them actually have illustrations included – from set pictures to camera setups drawn by the director.