I remember when my mum first invited me to watch Hannibal with her – yes, she was introduced to it earlier than I was. She tried to lure me into watching it by saying it’s very artistic because it uses a lot of detailed shots. Although I was a little bit sceptical at first, ‘close-up,’ in the end, truly is one of the first words that comes to my mind when I think of my intense experience watching the series.
While browsing dictionaries for the definitions of close-up to use in my video essay, I realized that the examples of the word as used in a sentence much more accurately reflected my experience of digesting Hannibal (pun intended). Juxtaposing the seemingly-innocent sentences with the horror, cruelty and gore in the images not only creates a new meaning for them but can also serve as a coping mechanism.
As the extreme close-ups become just abstract lines, their meaning is suspended, at least for a moment, until the camera zooms out enough for us to identify the objects we’re looking at. One of the examples used in the video – “They are particularly striking closeup but can look indistinct from a distance” – pitches out the exact opposite in Hannibal. It is actually the close-ups that are indistinct and more bearable to watch; and it is the context revealed that makes our body shiver. The time-limited comfort can be found in ascribing new meanings to the unidentifiable images. Therefore, placing the sentences from the dictionary over the images from Hannibal not only represents the horror of realizing the context; it also reflects on the process of trying to find other possible meanings for the images, or alternative contexts, until the moment of realization.
Where Lori Morimoto starts her video essay “Hannibal: a fanvid” with the word “intimacy,” the word for my own video would be “distance,” suggesting another way of reception of the close-up shots in Hannibal. Personally, as a huge fan, I feel like first I had to establish a coping mechanism, a safety net in order to be able to engulf myself fully in the emotional intimacy of the series – and the abstract details helped me establish that distance, at least for short spans of time. Thus, close-up shots are one of the many ambiguities of Hannibal.
Morimoto, L. (2016). Hannibal: a fanvid. [in]Transition, 3(4).
Karin Spišáková is a Film Studies and Sociology undergraduate at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, where she has begun creating audiovisual essays under the supervision of Jiří Anger and Veronika Hanáková. She is interested in cross-disciplinary topics from both sociological and film/media theories, but mainly queer theories. She is currently working on her bachelor’s thesis, which analyses the TV series Hannibal through queer masochistic theories and masochistic aesthetics.