Cannibalism has never been one of my interests, so seeing a movie about cinema's best known cannibal, Hannibal Lecter, was not at the top of my list. I was apprehensive entering the theater, but as I watched the movie, I was intrigued with the suspense, ebbing and flowing from scene to scene and situation to situation. There were times I had to look away, but I must admit there were also times I couldn't take my eyes off the screen.
The character Hannibal is a psychological, diabolical genius, played by Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Julianne Moore, who admirably followed in Jodie Foster's footsteps as FBI Agent Clarice Starling in this sequel to Silence of the Lambs. Foster reportedly turned down the role because of the film's on screen violence.
Every part of the movie was orchestrated to heighten the suspense, from the lighting, dark and haunting, with characters hidden in shadows, to the music, subtle but permeating every second to manipulate the mood.
Hannibal is rated R for heavy gory violence and some bad language. This is definitely not for children, nor would I recommend it for some of my adult friends who are sensitive to blood and gore.
The last moments of the film are exceedingly violent, leading to a fascinating conclusion that I won't give away here. But even hours after I left the theater, the terror remained with me.
Hannibal wasn't the first movie to feature excessive violence. I remember during my days in college, I was given the assignment to watch the 1971 film Straw Dogs. At the time it was released, it was considered to be an extremely violent movie, and we were all shocked and horrified by the ending of that movie. Now in 2001, it would be shown on broadcast television with barely an edit.
It leads me to conclude that we somehow seem to have become desensitized to the violence, as if it is something normal and expected. I reflected on two examples from my own life.
The first example is when I worked in television news. While we were discussing what to lead with on the evening news, someone suggested a gang killing and a producer replied, "but only two people were killed."
I immediately responded, "does it have to be 25 people now to get shown on television? Those two lives were worth something."
The second example was this week, when I asked a twenty-something friend from work if they thought Hannibal was too violent.
"Not much," he said. "I've seen much worse."
But unlike my young colleague, I was thoroughly repulsed from the very beginning. The subject matter was vile and I thought the violence was excessive.
I would hate to think that violence has become normal and accepted, whether it be factual or fictional. In fact, is it ever justified?
So with Hollywood raising the bar once again with gratuitous violence, we must as Muslims and as citizens, hold Hollywood accountable. It is our responsibility to speak out against what we find offensive or excessive. I have learned through my experience in the media that even one intelligent, constructive letter or email does mean a lot. It is in this way that we can make our voices heard and our views represented.
Cristy Trembly is engineer-in-charge and studio manager at CBS Television City in Hollywood. She has 26 years experience in television, and is a governor for the Electronic Production Peer Group of the Television Academy and serves on blue ribbon judging panels for both daytime and nighttime television.