Hannibal: The Peer Gynt Scene

This isn’t a proper blog post so much as thinking out loud. And still playing with Hannibal because, Hannibal.

So, I’ve been told that my fanfiction writing style is “sparsely lush” – which is like, what? But it’s actually not an inaccurate description. When I’m in a character’s head (and God, I spend most of my time there, because I tend to write therapy!fic… not on purpose, it just all kind of comes out that way), it tends to read like this (John Watson revisiting old memories in the wake of Mary Morstan Watson’s death):

Over the course of this exercise, John comes across dustier boxes, ragged with age, and these he opens alone in the privacy of his mind. Here are his memories of life with Sherlock – both the painful and the pleasurable; and beneath them other memories – hidden treasures softly glittering in the light – that, released, flood his awareness. Sherlock’s eyes, his hair and hands; his infectious enthusiasm and the glee that had always roused John’s own playfulness. The way he’d looked when, drowsy and warm, they’d locked eyes in bed, and the feel of his body, long and solid, against John’s as they danced. Deeper still are the things his possessive subconscious has hoarded – the missed beats of John’s heart at a wayward glance, hints of Sherlock’s own vulnerability and John’s primal need to protect. The beginnings of something that can only be love, wrapped in gossamer affection and buried where once he would have been least likely to find it.

But when my characters are talking, it usually comes out like this (John’s daughter giving him a posthumous letter from Mary):

“What is this?”

Annie, still standing, ducks her head as she explains, “Mum gave it me to give you.”

John glowers at his daughter.

“Then why didn’t you?”

“Well, that’s the thing,” she replies. “She wasn’t very clear about it, but she said to give it to you if you ever started talking about things… leaving.”

“Leaving,” John repeats, and Annie blushes.

“Or – Sherlock.”

The last word is almost whispered.

“I’ll just… ” she says, gesturing towards the front room. “Be in there.”

So that, I really like the prose, you know? It’s not quite Anne Rice-grade purple – more lavender, maybe – but that’s usually where I’m trying to grasp the complexity and depth of the things we all feel – because we’ve all had those moments or thoughts that are bigger than our ability to express out loud – we feel them intensely, but can’t really speak them in the same way. This is especially true, I think, of people/characters who are unused to expressing emotion at all – who shove it down where it won’t get away from them.

And I really love the contrast of ordinary people (or, at least, seemingly ordinary, because we’re all kind of extraordinary in our individual ways) feeling so deeply and yet appearing for all the world like nothing is going on behind their mundanity. Thus, my fic tends to go lavender, lavender, lavender, Hemingway, lavender, Hemingway, lavender – ‘sparsely lush’. 

So (switching gears), if you’ve seen Hannibal, you know that S3E4, “Aperitivo,” comes with the most gorgeous sequence (that’s pretty safe for anyone to watch; yeah, there’s the fantasized murder of Jack, but it’s just a slice to his neck over his shirt, and that’s, like, nothing in this show).

And what I really, really, really love is that this basically does what I try to do in fic (with far less success): the intensity of what Will is feeling (revisiting his last, disastrous encounter with Hannibal and fantasizing what might have been if he had gone along with the plans he had made with Hannibal instead) is there in the images and the music – elegiac, with its slow motion, classical music (Grieg’s Peer Gynt, “The Death of Åse”), differentiated aspect ratio (a thing now, apparently, but I like it here) – but when it cuts to the present it’s only Will in his shed, surrounded by bare trees in the quietly falling snow, repairing his boat motors – going through mundane, everyday motions at the same time he’s roiling inside. It’s this contrast between who he is on the inside – and he’s not even channeling anyone else – and who he appears to be on the outside that’s ultimately responsible for how Jack fails to understand him. Jack sees Will repairing boat motors, and he seems to think, “Hey, he’s repairing boat motors.” Even when Will, in the next scene, tells him in so many words that he warned Hannibal the FBI were coming “because he was my friend, and because I wanted to run away with him,” Jack still doesn’t grasp the depth of Will’s inner conflict – paving the way for what’s to come when Will ‘suggests’ that they stage Hannibal’s escape in order to lure the Red Dragon, and ending in that wonderful shot of Jack walking down the darkened highway/crime scene with no leads to follow.

AND THEN, what’s especially masterful here is that this is a bridge between Will recovering in the hospital and when he’s back home. We don’t know how much time has passed, but we do get the sense that Will has been revisiting this the entire time – that, having failed to leave with Hannibal, he’s left with nothing but memories and ‘what-might-have-beens’ – bereft.

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