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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #115: Hannibal Lecter

"Quid pro quo, Clarice."

Confession: I've never read any of the Harris novels. I've never seen the movies other than Silence of the Lambs. Some might hear that and wonder how I can claim him as a favorite character and not want to consume all of his appearances on page and screen. It's simple. In the film version of Silence, Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of Lecter is so chilling, so upsetting, so perfect, that I don't want to ruin it. Avoiding the other iterations is preservative, like watching Empire Strikes Back and then avoiding the prequels like the hanta virus.

What makes Lecter so delectably awful? It's his brilliance, his sophistication, his urbanity. His ability to use his mind as a penetrating weapon, raping your mind for aspects of your hidden self to use against you, apparently for his own amusement. For a predatory cannibal, he's charming, seductive, magnetic, and Hopkins effectively milks every ounce of his massive talent in presenting Lecter as something other than a horrifying sociopath. His scenes with Jodie Foster's Agent Clarice Starling establish a grotesque kismet between the two, going so far as to hint at a discomfiting sexual tension. These two top-flight artists have never been better than in those few moments of tense, razor-crisp dialogue divided by a glass wall.

I've never liked liver, myself.

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