Prequel charting the making of a maniac as the formative years of Hannibal Lecter - surely the most gruesome childhood in history - are recounted. 1941, Lithuania and the Lecter family, residents of Lecter Castle, live an idyllic life. Until the Nazi invasion of the Baltic turns everything upside down and the family is hunted for its life. They escape to their hunting lodge where they shelter for three years as the war rages. The Soviets finally drive the Germans out but in their retreat they blow up a Russian tank, which kills the whole family but Hannibal and his younger sister Mischa. The two seek refuge and must turn to cannibalism to survive. Rogue Russians who have collaborated with the Nazis are roaming the countryside trying to evade a certain death. The brigands come across the two starving children and commit a brutal act that is the first notch in shaping the monster Hannibal is to later become.
Though Hannibal Rising's Lecter (Gaspard Ulliel) is a pussycat compared to Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, this sequel's story of revenge is grizzly enough to satisfy lovers of Thomas Harris's epic tale. After young Hannibal (Aaron Thomas) is forced to watch his little sister, Mischa (Helena Lia Tachovska), devoured by starving soldiers in his homeland Lithuania, Hannibal vows to avenge his sister's death by slaying those who committed not only war crimes against the Lecters, but also against other families during WW II.
In detailing Hannibal's revenge plan, the film investigates the psychological implications of witnessing cannibalism to justify Hannibal's insatiable appetite for human flesh. The most interesting aspect of Hannibal Rising--its analytical connections drawn between Hannibal's childhood traumas and his murderous adult obsessions--is also the film's weak point. The links oversimplify Lecter's complex character. For example, though titillating to see flashbacks of Lecter's sister hacked up and boiled while Lecter visits a Parisian meat market, the reference is too obvious. One learns why he excels in his medical school classes dissecting cadavers, and we're given explicit explanation for why he slices off and eats his victims' cheeks. The story only complicates when Hannibal interacts with his sexy Aunt, Lady Murasaki (Gong Li). When Murasaki educates him in the art of beheading, the viewer sees Hannibal's sword fetish as a manifestation of physical lust. --Trinie Dalton
--This text refers to the DVD edition.